What is an MRI Scan?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This technique uses a very powerful magnet and radio waves to create pictures of tissues and organs inside the body, which can then be viewed on a computer. An MRI scan provides much better and clearer images of body parts that cannot be seen as well with X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound.
What happens during the MRI Scan?
During the MRI procedure, the patient has to lie inside a big and hollow cylindrical machine that has a strong magnet fit inside it. It almost feels like lying inside a large hose pipe! When the scanning machine is turned on, it sends extremely strong radio waves through the body and a strong magnetic field is created. This strong magnetic field affects the protons in the human body, that are mostly in hydrogen atoms, and aligns them in a particular fashion.
Hydrogen, along with oxygen and carbon, makes up 99 per cent of the human body, and thus, almost all the protons found inside the body are affected by the magnetic field generated by the machine. When the machine is turned off, the magnetic field also disappears and the protons start losing their alignment. They start going back to their original positions where they were before the magnetic field was generated. As the protons begin to fall back in place, they send out radio wave signals of their own. The MRI scanner picks up these signals and sends it to the attached computer which turns these signals into pictures.
Protons located in different parts of the body emit different types of signals. For example, a proton found in a muscle will produce an entirely different type of radio wave signal as compared to a proton found in a bone.
10 Interesting Facts about MRI Scan
- MRI scanning is a fairly new technique and it came into use in the early 1980s.
- An American medical practitioner, Raymond Vahan Damadian, invented the first MRI scanning machine.
- There are lights inside the machine, so it is not dark and there is nothing for the patients to feel scared of.
- The MRI machine is slightly noisy. A loud tapping sound is heard while the machine generates the pictures. If the patients get bothered about the noise while the examination, some doctors allow them to put on earplugs.
- A patient can bring his i-pod or walkman to listen to during the scan.
- The MRI machine is completely harmless. It does not hurt even a bit! Since we cannot feel any type of radio waves, we do not feel a thing.
- A patient must stay still while the pictures are being taken or else the pictures get blurred.
- The MRI scanning lasts for about half an hour to 45 minutes, depending on the number of body parts to be examined.
- MRI scanning is completely safe as no harmful radiation is produced during the examination, unlike X-Rays or CT scanning.
- Most commonly, MRI scanning is done to find out the severity of internal injuries, sprains and back pain.
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