What Is An MRI?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. This imaging test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce pictures of your internal structures, including bones, organs, blood vessels, and soft tissues.

An MRI machine is a large, tube-shaped tunnel. During an MRI, your doctor will have you lie flat on a table, which is then moved into the tunnel.

After an MRI machine gets turned on, its magnetic field and radio waves will bounce off water and fat molecules in your body. That produces faint signals picked up by the machine, which create cross-sectional images of the inside of your body. Your doctor then reviews these images to diagnose a health condition, monitor the progression of a disease, or see how current treatments are working.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are many types of MRI tests. Available MRI tests include:

  • Abdominal MRI
  • Cervical MRI
  • Chest MRI
  • Cranial MRI (to evaluate bones in the head that cover your brain)
  • Heart MRI
  • Lumbar MRI (to assess the spine and lower back)
  • Pelvic MRI
  • MRA (MR angiography, an MRI of the blood vessels)
  • MRV (MR venography, an MRI of the veins)

MRI: What Are the Pros and Cons?

One of the biggest strengths of an MRI is that it is beneficial at detecting abnormal tissues in your body. The images produced by an MRI are often far more detailed than CT scan images. Therefore, an MRI can detect certain diseases that a CT scan may not detect, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, and uterine cancer. MRIs are also good at detecting sports injuries and musculoskeletal problems, including joint inflammation, spinal injuries, and strains and sprains.

Cons of an MRI include its cost, treatment time, loud noises, adverse reactions to metals, and claustrophobia.

An MRI is generally more costly than a CT scan and takes far longer to perform. An MRI can take up to an hour and a half for some people and requires you to lie entirely still during the entire time. An MRI machine is thunderous and may require you to wear headphones or protective ear devices during the procedure. Some people experience hearing problems after a long MRI session.

The magnets used in an MRI may cause dangerous reactions in people who have metals in their bodies. People who have any type of metal in their body, such as a pacemaker, dental fillings, or joint replacements, are usually advised not to have an MRI.

Claustrophobia is another con of having an MRI for those who experience fear or anxiety when being in an enclosed space, like the inside of an MRI machine. If you suffer from claustrophobia or are anxious about being in the MRI machine for too long, your doctor may prescribe a sedative to help you relax and feel calm.

The NIH reports that an MRI may also cause nerve stimulation. Some people may experience a twitching sensation during and after an MRI due to the rapidly switching magnetic fields.

Lastly, an MRI may involve contrast dye, which can cause adverse reactions in some people. Contrast dye is an agent you take before an MRI that helps certain areas inside your body show up more clearly in the images. You may receive this dye in the form of a drink, intravenous injection, or an enema. Talk to your doctor about the effects of contrast dye if you have allergies or a condition that affects your kidneys, including diabetes. Your doctor may do an MRI without the dye or use a special dye that won’t increase your risk for reactions.

MRI Procedures

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we have the ability to do the full range of MRI exams including:

  • MRI/MRA Brain
  • MRI Spine
  • MRI Upper and Lower Extremities
  • MRI Joints
  • MRI Face/Orbits/Ears
  • MR Vascular, both Venous and Arterial blood flow
  • MRI Breast including Breast biopsy
  • MRI Enterography (Small Bowel Imaging)
  • MRI ABD (liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas)
  • MRCP (Gall Bladder, Billiary ducts, Pancreatic ducts)
  • Female Pelvis (Ovaries, uterus, bladder)
  • Boney Pelvis/Hips
image of the machine

Our New MRI System, 2021

GE Artist Signa with Air Recon Deep Learning Software

  • Enables sharper and clearer TrueFidelity MR images
  • 30 percent reduction in scan time
  • Quieter scan experience for the patient
  • Increased bore size capable of accommodating larger patient shape and size
  • Computer-Aided Diagnosis capability enables prostate cancer screening
Available at Lompoc Valley Medical Center

1515 E Ocean Ave, Lompoc, CA

Outpatient Services Monday - Friday
5 am – 7 pm
Sat - Sun
5 am – 5 pm
Emergency Services Everyday
24/7

(805) 737-3300

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