What Is Open MRI?

What is Open MRI?

MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is a method used by physicians to look inside the human body to obtain diagnostic information. Incorporating an advanced technology, MRI produces images of the anatomy without the use of radiation found in x-ray and CT scanning.

MRI uses a computer and the physical properties of magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the soft tissues within the body in any plane. This technology is commonly used as a primary diagnostic tool. It can help provide a quick and accurate diagnosis for your physician, which in some situations can reduce the need for exploratory surgery and other diagnostic procedures that might have associated risk.

MRI is a non-invasive procedure, and there are no known side effects or after effects. The procedure is painless; in fact, you won't see or feel anything. A faint knocking sound will be heard, which is simply the imaging process in operation.

The benefits of magnetic resonance imaging are many, with new applications continually being developed through on-going research. The procedure is used for all parts of the body and is effective in the clinical evaluation of the following conditions:

  • Brain disorders
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Eye abnormalities
  • Spine diseases
  • Tumor detection
  • Liver and other abdominal diseases
  • Knee and shoulder injuries
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Facial / Neck abnormalities
  • Infection
  • Blood flow and vessel disorders

What Should You Expect?

Family can be nearby when you have an open MRI

MR images are formed by the computer processing signals that are emitted by body tissue. These signals are generated using a safe magnetic field in combination with radio waves of a specific frequency. Different tissue characteristics are revealed through this process and translated into different contrast levels on the image.

The procedure typically will last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the type of information required by your physician. You just need to be as still as possible during the exam. In fact, some patients fall asleep during the MRI exam.

Our technologist will be able to see you at all times. For your convenience, an intercom system is built into the magnet so that if you need anything, our technologist will be right there. In certain instances, a contrast agent may be administered to enhance the study. There are no extra precautions if our doctor requires this. Consult your doctor or our technologist if you have any questions.

Diagram of How Open MRI Works
Example of the computer generated image

How To Prepare

Man having an MRI done on his chest

Lady having an MRI done on her wrist

Lady having an MRI done on her neck

No special preparation is required prior to the MRI exam. You may eat normally and go about your daily routine. Continue to take any medication prescribed by your doctor unless otherwise directed.

Because of the magnetic field, you will be asked to leave the following items in a safe place outside the scan room:

  • Coins
  • Jewelry
  • Watches
  • Glasses
  • Credit Cards
  • Hearing Aides
  • Keys
  • Hair Pins
  • Other Metal Objects

You may also be asked to remove make-up and dentures and to wear a hospital gown to avoid magnetic interference from belt buckles and zippers.

Once you are situated on the table, make sure you are comfortable so that it is easy to keep still. Breathe normally. There is nothing about the procedure to make you uncomfortable. The only thing you will notice is a faint knocking sound that represents the changes in the magnetic field that are part of the imaging process. Once the exam is over, our technologist will assist you out of the scan room.

Because of the potential harmful effects associated with some metallic objects in a magnetic field, you should check with your physician or MRI technologist if you have had any brain, ear, eye or other surgeries or any of the following:

  • Pacemaker
  • Neuro-stimulator (Tens-unit)
  • Metal Implants
  • Intrauterine Device (IUD), etc.
  • Aneurysm Clips
  • Surgical Staples
  • Implanted Drug Infusion Device
  • Foreign Metal Objects in the Eye
  • Shrapnel or Bullet Wounds
  • Permanent Eyeliner

If you are pregnant, please notify your physician.

How MRI Works

Magnetic Resonance Imaging systems are able to generate high quality diagnostic images through the use of an effective, yet safe, magnetic field. Hydrogen protons within the body align with the magnetic field. By applying short radio frequency (RF) pulses to a specific anatomical slice, the protons in the slice absorb energy at this resonant frequency causing them to spin perpendicular to the magnetic field. As the protons relax back into alignment with the magnetic field, a signal is received by an RF coil that acts as an antenna. This signal is processed by a computer to produce diagnostic images of the anatomical area of interest. Depending upon the type of RF pulse sequence used, either T1 or T2 weighted images are generated. These continuous thin-slice images can be obtained in various planes for optimum clinical evaluation.

Patient Safety

MRI is a convenient and safe diagnostic procedure for most patients. There is only a knocking sound which represents the changes in the magnetic fields that are part of the imaging process.

The advantage of MRI is its easy operation and the fact that it does not utilize any form of ionizing radiation. The fact that there are no side effects associated with MRI further enhances its clinical acceptance. Thus, MRI can eliminate the need for other expensive or complicated diagnostic procedures.

Contraindications do exist for some patients. These are object, particularly metal objects, that are incompatible with a strong magnetic field and they can have potentially harmful effects. Patients are advised to notify their physicians or our MRI Technologists if they have had brain, ear, eye or other surgeries prior to your MR examinations. Patients in the following categories should avoid MR examinations:

  • Pacemaker
  • Neuro-stimulator (Tens-unit)
  • Aneurysm Clips
  • Implanted Drug Infusion Devises
  • Shrapnel or Bullet Wounds
  • Metal Implants
  • Intrauterine Devise (IUD), etc.
  • Surgical Staples
  • Foreign Metal Objects in the Eye
  • Permanent Eyeliner

MRI is not generally recommended for pregnant patients, especially during the first trimester. Certain obstetrical applications are pending FDA clearance.

MRI ... the forefront of diagnostic tools.

Orthopedic Imaging

MRI offers the best of all imaging modalities because of its superior contrast differentiation between muscle, fat, vessels, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, cortical bone and marrow bone space. MRI displays excellent delineation of soft tissue and bony tumors and is extremely useful in detecting avascular necrosis of bone, particularly of the hip. High-resolution knee imaging techniques provide unparalleled detail of the menisci, ligaments and cruciates.

MR imaging is very well suited for the evaluation of ligaments, muscle and bony abnormalities of the shoulder, without the need for painful invasive procedures. MRI demonstrates similar advantages in imaging other complex anatomy such as the elbow, wrist, foot and ankle due to its multi-planar imaging capability, its sensitivity to soft tissue and bone disease processes and its ability to identify dislocations and fractures.

Neurological Imaging

MRI of the brain has surpassed CT in the detection of disease processes due to its superior sensitivity and excellent presentation of contrast between various anatomical structures. Compared to CT, MR studies of the posterior fossa are more well-defined because MRI is not subject to bone artifacts that obscure lesions, particularly to those in the cerebellar-pontine region. Complex imaging planes are possible which, for example, allow direct imaging of the optic nerve and its tracts through the orbital apex and beyond the optic chiasm.

MRI of the spine provides more diagnostic information for evaluation of primary or metastatic tumors of the spinal cord. MR imaging of other important anatomical structures of the spinal cord such as the nerve and nerve roots, neural foramina, ligaments, and the disc spaces is further enhanced by exceptional resolution and contrast without bone artifacts.

Using orthogonal and oblique slice planes, along with various selections of tissue contrast, MR provides a highly effective alternative to X-ray myelography and the risks associated with intra-thecal contrast injections.

Vascular Imaging

MR angiography (MRA), the non-invasive imaging method used to assess vascular conditions, has been proven effective in the evaluation of vascular disease without the discomfort and the risk associated with using iodinated contrast agents and catheters used in conventional angiography. It has been found to be instrumental in the evaluation of acute vascular processes and acute head trauma during which time the earliest and most accurate diagnosis is crucial.

Facial/Neck Imaging

Superb soft tissue detail consistently demonstrated by MR imaging allows for enhanced evaluation of facial and neck structures. Pre-surgical and pre-radiation treatment planning and follow-up are enhanced by MRI's ability to delineate anatomical boundaries. In addition, it is easy to determine both size and extension of lesions in the face and neck area. MRI also excels in the ability to determine vascular from non-vascular anatomy without the risk associated with iodinated contrast agent use.

Abdomen/Pelvis Imaging

MRI of the liver offers unmatched sensitivity to pathology compared to CT in the detection of primary and metastitic liver tumors. Abdominal MR has been improved to provide faster imaging techniques, allowing imaging within a single breathold. MRI also provides high resolution imaging capability of the adrenals, kidneys, pancreas and spleen for diagnosis of tumors, infections and other vascular anomalies.

MRI of the pelvis and genitourinary system offers the advantages of improved soft tissue discrimination and absence of bone artifacts. Also, MRI provides for safe imaging of the reproductive region of adults as well as children without the use of ionizing radiation.