Patients who have suffered a head trauma come to mind first when you think of who would benefit from having an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. Surprisingly, only 22% of the 30 million MRIs performed last year were head scans. The truth is any part of the body can be scanned with an MRI in order to get a 3-D image that doctors can view. Getting a view from many angles can help with reaching an accurate diagnosis.
From tiny bones in the foot to the top of a person’s head, any soft tissues, organs or skeletal structure can be imaged to assist doctors in figuring out treatment options. MRIs use powerful magnets instead of ionizing radiation to produce the images.
Though MRIs don’t use radiation like x-rays do, you will find the MRI machines in the radiology department of most hospitals and outpatient facilities. The device looks like a large cylinder and the patient (depending on the part of the body undergoing examination) can be put in head or feet first. Some machines, called open MRIs, are designed to eliminate some of the feeling of claustrophobia patients sometimes experience.
A typical MRI can last anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes depending on how many images must be taken. Scans are often broken down into 15-minute segments. A patient needs to stay as still as possible during his or her time being scanned for the best image resolution results. After a set of scans are complete, they are typically reviewed and interpreted by a radiologist (a physician who specializes in radiology and imaging) who would discuss their findings with a patient’s main physician.
Considering that 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime, many women and doctors are considering how to use MRIs for detection. Presently, 3d mammography or tomosynthesis is used for routine screening and detection. Breast MRIs are used for breast cancer diagnosis, staging or for women who are at high risk. An estimated 231,840 cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2015, and MRIs will be used in their diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The reason MRIs are not routinely used for early detection is because they are considered more invasive due to the use of a contrast dye.