What is an MRI and How Does It Work?

If you have ever taken a nasty fall, gotten into an accident, or even watched a medical drama on television then you have probably heard of an MRI. What is an MRI? MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, is a kind of medical imaging procedure that allows doctors to take images of the internal body in the effort to diagnosis, treat and heal patients.

You may be wondering “Isn’t that what an X-ray does?” You’re right, X-rays can see into the body, take images that can be used by doctors. But X-rays are a specialized technique mostly to observe bone and the skeletal system of the body. What about the other structures of the body like organs, tissues, and ligaments? Until the creation of the MRI, these areas were not easily seen without surgery. That meant performing exploratory surgery often, in the hope that the answer would be revealed.

In the 1970s, medical researchers were wondering if there was a way to see into the body’s structure without surgery and without causing permanent damage. Dr. Raymond Damadian is credited as being the first physician to perform a body scan with the technology he referred to at the time as nuclear magnetic resonance or what we now know as magnetic resonance imaging or MRI.

When you are walking down the street and car drives by with an enhanced bass, you feel it? If the sound is strong enough, it can cause vibrations or movement in the area around it. It is in this idea that the capability of the MRI can be understood. Ultrasounds had been using similar technology for a number of years as well.

To begin, the human body is composed of many molecules and atoms all moving in a precise way. An MRI consists of a large circle magnet. Once the body of the patient has been placed in the chamber, the MRI machine blasts sound waves at the body. These sound waves disrupt the hydrogen molecules of the body but then they are immediately stabilized by the magnet. Then using computer software, an image can be produced showing where the molecules were. In essence, the machine sends hydrogen into a frenzy then makes it return to it’s original place and creates an image from the before, during and after data.

How is this technology helpful for the medical field? When looking for a tumor, a break, a tear, anything that shouldn’t be in the body, the area sends back data to the computer stating that is different. This lets doctors know that something has happened there that needs examination.

MRIs are primarily used to examine the musculoskeletal system of the body. They are painless, requiring no incision and they contain no exposure to radiation like traditional X-rays do.

Doctors Imaging continues its efforts to provide “state of the art” medical imaging equipment along with access to innovative methods of imaging. We were the first facility in the state to use a Siemen’s 3.0T MRI system, the strongest available for clinical use, and we are the first in the greater New Orleans to offer DTI or Diffusion Tensor Imaging, an advanced form of MRI that allows radiologists to chart the nerve pathways in the brain. We also offer an Open MRI for patients that are uncomfortable in the closed MRI. We are committed to maintaining updated equipment and groundbreaking methodologies for the residents of Louisiana.

If you have more questions about what MRIs can do, please view our MRI Service Page. If you would like to schedule an MRI, you may do so through our Request Appointment Portal or you can call our office in Metairie at 504-833-8111 to speak to a representative.

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