An MRI (magnetic resonance image) uses magnetic fields and a sophisticated computer to take high-resolution pictures of your bones and soft tissues, resulting in a cross-sectional image of your body. As with a CT scan, you lie on a table that slides into the tube-shaped MRI scanner. The MRI creates a magnetic field around you, then pulses radio waves to the area of your body to be pictured. The radio waves cause your tissues to resonate. A computer records the rate at which your body’s various parts (tendons, ligaments, nerves) give off these vibrations, and translates the data into a detailed, two-dimensional picture. In many cases MRI gives different information about structures in the body than can be seen with an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan. MRI also may show problems that cannot be seen with other imaging methods. Spine. MRI can check the discs and nerves of the spine for conditions such as spinal stenosis, disc bulges, and spinal tumors.
Pictures from an MRI scan are digital images that can be saved and stored on a computer for more study. The images also can be reviewed remotely, such as in a clinic or an operating room. In some cases contrast materials may be used during the MRI scan to show certain structures more clearly.
MRI’s can be used to help diagnose torn muscles, ligaments and cartilage, herniated disks, hip or pelvic problems and other conditions. You won’t feel any pain while undergoing an MRI, but the machine may be noisy. An MRI takes 30 to 90 minutes. Tell your doctor if you have implants, metal clips or other metal objects in your body before you undergo an MRI scan.