Magnetic resonance imaging — which is more commonly known as an MRI — is a safe and painless way for you and your doctor to get a really detailed picture of your organs and other structures inside your body.
MRI creates a 3D picture of the inside of your body. Because these images include details of softer tissues, MRI is often used to look for disease or infection, examine your organs and check for soft-tissue damage in your joints throughout your body — from your head to your toes.
When you choose Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging for your MRI, you can rest easy knowing your MRI results will be evaluated by a radiologist with specialty training directly related to your exam. Your MRI will help you and your doctor get answers about what is going on inside you and make a plan for treatment.
How MRI works
MRI uses a strong magnetic field to temporarily line up the protons in the hydrogen atoms in your body. The MRI machine will send specially tuned radio wave pulses to the area being imaged.
How those radio waves bounce — or resonate — off your hydrogen atoms is interpreted by a computer. The computer turns this information into highly detailed images of the inside of your body.
The images are taken in layers, almost like really thin slices of bread. The slices can even be taken in any direction. This helps your radiologist examine the body part being evaluated in extremely great detail to make an accurate diagnosis.
What and who it’s used for
Because MRI creates a very detailed picture without using ionizing radiation, it can be used to image many areas of the body. It’s also safe for repeated images.
Some of the most common MRIs done at Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging include:
- Brain and spine
- Joints and extremeties
- Abdominal and pelvic organs
- Blood vessels
Most people, even pregnant women, are able to have an MRI. If you have an implanted device — such as a pacemaker — or other metal in your body, a CT exam would be your safest alternative.
As with any medical imaging, your doctor can talk in detail with you about any concerns you have. Feel free to call Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging with your questions at 360-255-3660.
How to prepare for an MRI
Because MRI uses an incredibly strong magnet, it’s vital that you let your doctor as well as Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging know if you have any metal implants or medical devices in your body. These might include:
- Pacemaker, artificial heart valve or stent
- Screws, plates, staples or pins
- Artificial limbs or joints
- Nerve stimulators
An MRI exam cannot be used with certain types of implants, so it is important you speak with us and the doctor who ordered your MRI so we can work together to find out if MRI is right for you.
Also stop and think: Do you have any other foreign metal in your body? Maybe shrapnel or a long-lost BB? Let us know.
Any metal on your body or clothing will be pulled — hard — by the MRI magnet as soon as you enter the room. It’s critically important to remove all metal before you even enter the room. This includes:
- Jewelry, watches and body piercings
- Removable dental work
- Hair pins, clasps and bungies that have metal clips
- Clothing with metal zippers, rivets or charms
- Pens, coins and knives from pockets
- Eyeglasses and hearing aids
As with any medical exam, it’s best to leave your valuables at home.
For most MRIs you can eat, drink and take your normal medication on the day of your imaging procedure. If we need you to do anything special to prepare for your exam, we will let you know.
What to expect
Before your MRI at Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging, we’ll make sure you don’t have any metal on your body or clothing. We have gowns you can use if necessary.
The MRI machine looks like a tube. You’ll lie down on the MRI table, which will slide into the tube, which contains the magnet.
If you have any concerns about tight spaces, let us know right away. We are happy to talk to you in detail about what to expect. You can arrange to see the MRI room in advance. We will do everything we can to ease your worries.
Depending on the type and location of your MRI, your doctor may ask for images using contrast. Contrast is a safe material — basically a dye — delivered intravenously. It is a diluted solution of gadolinium that highlights disease or abnormalities.
If your doctor has ordered images with contrast, you may feel a little prick as your IV gets started. Nothing else with an MRI is painful.
Before your MRI, one end of your body will be moved into the tube. Which end depends on the type of MRI exam.
As the MRI begins, you’ll hear some thumping. This is the magnet doing its work. It’s important that you hold very still.
MRI involves a series of imaging procedures. Your MRI technologist will be able to speak to you through an intercom between the sections of your MRI. You can even request music to listen to during the MRI.
MRI can take 30 minutes or longer, depending on the type of images needed. It’s important to us that you’re as comfortable as possible. Let us know if you need a blanket or a cushion.
After your MRI
Once the MRI machine has done its job, you’ll be able to head home right away. In the meantime, a specially trained Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging radiologist will review the images created by the MRI computer. They’ll examine each of the many layers of your MRI scan and create a results report that will be sent to your doctor.
Your provider will follow up with you about anything that was found and if any treatment or additional imaging is needed.
At any point during this process, you’re welcome to contact Bellingham Advanced Medical Imaging at (360) 255-6330 with any questions or concerns you have.