Blog - MRI Scans - What You Need To Know

MRI Scans - What You Need To Know

What is an MRI Scan?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.  Without getting too technical this means that the MRI machine uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of tissues in the body.  

The MRI machine has a bed that the patient lies on and the patient goes in a tunnel into the machine for it to create the images.  You need to lie really still so the images come out clearly.  The magnets make a very loud banging noise while you are in there.  A lot of patients complain about the noise but it doesn’t hurt at all.  Some claustrophobic patients have some sedation before they go into the machine.

What does an MRI show?
MRI Scans are used to examine soft tissue in the body.  This is particularly helpful when Dr Moloney wants to see if a patient has any damage to the discs in their spine.

Is my surgical implant MRI Safe?
This is a very important question for anyone who has had surgery and had implants put in their body.

Our patients who have spinal surgery often need to know this if they need an MRI Scan after they have had their operation.  You may need to have an MRI Scan for a completely unrelated problem, however, if you have anything anywhere in your body that is made from a metal that is magnetic (ferrous) you shouldn’t have an MRI Scan.

What will happen if I have an MRI Scan with metal in my body?
If you have any metal in your body and you go into the MRI Scan machine once it starts going the metal will spin around causing a lot of pain.  Obviously, it depends on where the implant is as to how much damage may be done.  For example, if you have had brain surgery to have an aneurysm clipped in your brain and you have an MRI Scan with a non MRI safe aneurysm clip that could be deadly.

If you have any type of surgery where you have anything implanted into your body it is really important to keep a record of exactly what it is and what it is made from.  If you need an MRI Scan 20 years later and your surgeon has retired or moved it will be a lot harder to work out what the implant is and whether it is okay to have an MRI Scan.

Dr Moloney doesn’t use any implants these days that are not MRI safe.  MRI compatible spinal surgery implants have been available for about 20 years now.  Most surgeons will choose to use MRI safe implants when they are available but it is always best to check.

For more information you can head to the Spinal Treatments section of our website.

Tara Harris

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