With over 30 million scans performed each year, MRI is one of the most commonly used imaging techniques in modern medicine. This prevalence means that most people are familiar with the term 'MRI,' but even people who have had an MRI scan in the past might not fully understand how this technology works, why it's such a critical tool in medicine, or how it can benefit them as a patient.
At Smart Scan Medical Imaging, we use MRI scans to diagnose a wide range of illnesses and injuries. In this blog, we'll discuss the key benefits and advantages of MRI technology to help you better understand its critical role in modern medicine.
A Short History Of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
In 1944, American physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of a physical phenomenon he called nuclear magnetic resonance. This discovery paved the way for the development of MRI technology, which they then called NMRI, for nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. Due to the negative implications of the word 'nuclear,' the 'N' was eventually dropped.
Nevertheless, this technology was improved upon by scientists across the globe for the next several decades. In the 1960s, one doctor named Raymond Damadian hypothesized that, because cancerous tissues contained more water than healthy tissue, MRI could be used to detect it, if only they could create a scanner big enough for a person to fit inside.
After many more years of tireless research and testing, in 1977, the first MRI scan was successfully performed on a human patient. Then, as soon as the 80s, MRI machines became commonplace in medical facilities around the world. In the many years since, they have remained one of the most important tools used by doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals.
Understanding MRI Technology
MRI is a type of diagnostic imaging. This kind of medical test is used to create detailed images of the inside of the body that help doctors diagnose a variety of conditions and illnesses. These images can also provide insights into the structure and function of organs, bones, and other areas within the body.
Unlike other imaging techniques that use radiation, an MRI scanner uses powerful magnets to create a magnetic field that interacts with the atoms in the patient's body. Then, radio waves are pulsed through the patient, stimulating those atoms and producing signals that are captured by a computer. This data is then detected by the scanner and converted into an image that can be viewed on a computer monitor. These images then aid medical experts diagnose diseases and conditions like breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and many others.
MRI machines can be used to examine almost any part of the body, like the brain and spinal cord, heart and blood vessels, bones and joints, and more. In fact, MRI scanners can even be used to capture images of the brain related to consciousness and thinking (functional magnetic resonance imaging).
The Differences Between MRI and Other Imaging Technologies
There are several other kinds of diagnostic imaging techniques that use different strategies to accomplish different tasks, and they are all more useful in certain circumstances than others. Other than MRI, the most commonly used imaging techniques include:
- X-Ray: X-rays are the oldest and most common way to image the body. They use a low dose of radiation which is directed at the area being studied. The resulting images can give a quick, clear picture of the bones and surrounding soft tissues. X-rays are typically used to diagnose broken bones, but can also help diagnose some diseases, such as pneumonia and emphysema.
- CT Scan: CT scans (or computed tomography scans) use radiation to create a 3D image of the body’s internal structures. CT scans are used to diagnose a variety of conditions, including cancers and other abnormalities. They can also help guide biopsies and provide information about the size, shape, and location of tumors.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the body’s internal structures. These sound waves are generated by a device placed on the skin, and they can be used to detect things like tumors, cysts, or other abnormalities. Ultrasound is often used in prenatal care to track a baby’s progress.
- PET Scan: A PET scan (or positron emission tomography) uses a small amount of radioactive material to create an image of the body. This type of scan is used to identify cancer, as well as neurologic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The images produced can be used to measure the activity of cells or the number of molecules in a particular area.
Benefits and Advantages Of MRI Technology
There are many ways in which an MRI exam can be a better, more comfortable experience for patients when compared to other imaging techniques. Though each of these tests has its place in medical diagnosis, MRI stands out due to a variety of advantages.
First, MRI images provide better detail than any other imaging technique. Since they create a 3D image of the area being studied, they offer more information than X-rays or ultrasounds. This detailed information can help doctors diagnose a variety of conditions more effectively and efficiently, resulting in better health outcomes for their patients.
Second, an MRI machine uses magnets and radio waves, unlike X-rays, CT scans, or PET scans, which all utilize radiation. This makes MRI procedures an excellent choice for pregnant women, young children, and anyone else who may be sensitive to radiation.
Third, MRI scans are fast! In the past, MRI developed a reputation for being a lengthy, uncomfortable process, but modern technology has made the process much faster. At Smart Scan Medical Imaging, we use GE 1.5 Tesla wide-bore MRI technology to provide our patients with fast, accurate results in a comfortable and convenient setting.
Depending on what part of the body is being examined, a typical scan in our MRI machine takes only 15 to 30 minutes. In addition, because our scanners are 'wide-bore,' they're also larger than the standard MRI machine, creating a more comfortable environment for patients who may experience anxiety or claustrophobia.
Overall, MRI scans offer a safer, more comfortable experience with results that can be generated quickly and accurately.
How Smart Scan Medical Imaging Can Help You
Our expert Smart Scan Medical Imaging team is dedicated to providing our patients with the highest quality MRI experience. From our state-of-the-art equipment to our personalized care and attention, we strive to ensure that each visit to our centers is comfortable and convenient.
We offer a range of MRI services to help diagnose issues ranging from sports injuries to neurological disorders. Our experienced MRI technologists will review your medical history, answer all of your questions, and ensure that you are comfortable during the examination.
With locations in Weston and Eau Claire, WI, Smart Scan Medical Imaging is proud to provide the highest quality MRI services to our community. Schedule an appointment with us today!