MRI, short for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, allows for detailed pictures of the body to be taken. While similar to an X-ray, MRI does not require radiation. Instead, magnetic forces and radio waves are used to generate the image of the body part being observed.
MRI scans are particularly useful in imaging the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, and bony structures. MRI scans are often ordered in cancer patients with unexplained bone pain, since plain X-rays may not be useful. Tumours may invade bone, especially in patients with multiple myeloma and lymphoma, but occasionally this occurs in leukemia as well. MRI scans are also useful for detecting infection in the bone (osteomyelitis) and damage to discs and joints.
Patients cannot have metal on, or in, your body. For example, jewellery and any other metallic objects should be removed before an MRI scan. Patients with pacemakers, artificial joints, ear implants, heart valves, surgical clips or metal foreign bodies cannot have an MRI scan.
The Procedure - What to Expect
Inpatients do not require any specific preparation for MRI scanning and are taken for the MRI by wheelchair or stretcher. If your white blood cell count is too low, you will be asked to wear a mask while out of your hospital room. If you are an outpatient, you can simply proceed to the MRI Department at your scheduled appointment time.
MRI scans are not uncomfortable for the patient, but they do require that you remain still in a confined tube surrounded by a large magnet for about one hour. This can create a claustrophobic sensation. Music can be played if you find this relaxes you. Sometimes a mild sedative is given prior to the MRI scan.