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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI),

or magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) is a medical imaging technique used in

radiology to visualize detailed internal structures. MRI makes use of the property of
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to image nuclei of atoms inside the body.

An MRI machine uses a powerful magnetic field to align the magnetization of some
atoms in the body, and radio frequency fields to systematically alter the alignment of this
magnetization. This causes the nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by
the scanner—and this information is recorded to construct an image of the scanned area
of the body.[1]:36 Strong magnetic field gradients cause nuclei at different locations to
rotate at different speeds. 3-D spatial information can be obtained by providing gradients
in each direction.

MRI provides good contrast between the different soft tissues of the body, which make it
especially useful in imaging the brain, muscles, the heart, and cancers compared with
other medical imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or X-rays. Unlike
CT scans or traditional X-rays MRI uses no ionizing radiation.

How it works

In just a few decades, the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners has
grown tremendously. Doctors may order MRI scans to help diagnose multiple sclerosis,
brain tumors, torn ligaments, tendonitis, cancer and strokes, to name just a few. An MRI
scan is the best way to see inside the human body without cutting it open.

That may be little comfort to you when you're getting ready for an MRI exam. You're
stripped of your jewelry and credit cards and asked detailed questions about all the
metallic instruments you might have inside of you. You're put on a tiny slab and pushed
into a hole that hardly seems large enough for a person. You're subjected to loud noises,
and you have to lie perfectly still, or they're going to do this to you all over again. And
with each minute, you can't help but wonder what's happening to your body while it's in
this machine. Could it really be that this ordeal is truly better than another imaging
technique, such as an X-ray or a CAT scan? What has Raymond Damadian wrought?

The biggest and most important component in an MRI system is the magnet. The magnet
in an MRI system is rated using a unit of measure known as a Tesla. Another unit of
measure commonly used with magnets is the gauss (1 Tesla = 10,000 gauss). The
magnets in use today in MRI are in the 0.5-Tesla to 3.0-Tesla range, or 5,000 to 30,000
gauss. Extremely powerful magnets -- up to 60 Tesla -- are used in research. Compared
with the Earth's 0.5-gauss magnetic field, you can see how incredibly powerful these
magnets are.

Because of the power of these magnets, the MRI suite can be a very dangerous place if
strict precautions are not observed. Metal objects can become dangerous projectiles if
they are taken into the scan room. For example, paperclips, pens, keys, scissors,
hemostats, stethoscopes and any other small objects can be pulled out of pockets and off
the body without warning, at which point they fly toward the opening of the magnet
(where the patient is placed) at very high speeds, posing a threat to everyone in the room.
Credit cards, bank cards and anything else with magnetic encoding will be erased by
most MRI systems.

The magnetic force exerted on an object increases exponentially as it nears the magnet.
Imagine standing 15 feet (4.6 m) away from the magnet with a large pipe wrench in your
hand. You might feel a slight pull. Take a couple of steps closer and that pull is much
stronger. When you get to within 3 feet (1 meter) of the magnet, the wrench likely is
pulled from your grasp. The more mass an object has, the more dangerous it can be -- the
force with which it is attracted to the magnet is much stronger. Mop buckets, vacuum
cleaners, IV poles, oxygen tanks, patient stretchers, heart monitors and countless other
objects have all been pulled into the magnetic fields of MRI machines. Smaller objects
can usually be pulled free of the magnet by hand. Large ones may have to be pulled away
with a winch, or the magnetic field may even have to be shut down.

 An MRI machine is basically a giant tube with a table that the patient lies on. The
patient is placed into the tube either feet or head first depending ont he area that is being
examined. Inside the large tube there are magnets, which are not visible to the patient.
When the machine is turned on the magnets rotate around the patient and create a
situation where the patient is in a low strength magnetic field. The MRI machine is
attached to a sophisticated computer system. The computer translates the information
from the MRI to produce detailed images of your organs and tissues. The result is a
document similar to an X-ray that can be interpreted by your physician.
 MRI's are often used to diagnose conditions such as tumors, developmental issues,
damage caused by a stroke and chronic conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis. Physicians
can also gain information about changes and injuries to the spinal column and vertebrae,
the joints, and the structure of the heart muscle. MRI's can also detect problems in many
of the internal organs and can be used in cases of suspected breast cancer. The benefit of
an MRI compared to an X-ray is that it is much more detailed, it can view more then just
bones and joints, and it can produce 3-D images allowing the body to be viewed from
many angles.


Open MRI
There are two main types of MRI machines. Open and closed. They are both have a top
over the patient. The main difference is in their size and how much the machine surround
the patient. A closed machine is a smaller and more narrow tube and provides the best
images. See the image at the top of the article.
An open MRI machine is open on three sides, making it more comfortable for the patient.
However the images are not as good since the magnet is not traveling around the whole

 A closed machine is the preferred type of MRI by physicians due to more accurate
pictures. However due to the fact that the top of the machine is just inches above a
patient's face it can be uncomfortable for many patients and create feelings of
claustrophobia. In addition a closed MRI machine can only take patients up to three
hundred pounds.
With an open MRI, the magnets do not circle around your body so its imaging
capabilities are more limited. There are some tests an open MRI machine can not do. One
plus is that an open machine can take patients up to four hundred and fifty pounds.


Seated/Standing MRI
With advances in technology there are now also MRI's that allow the patient to sit or
stand in the machine. See the picture here. This is extremely helpful when the physician
needs to see the effects of weight bearing on the body. In the case of back pain, the pain
or pressure may subside as the patient lies down in an open or closed MRI. However
upon sitting or standing the cause of the problem may be better detected. A downside is
that the physician must place the patient in a painful position while performing the scan.
On the plus side some models even come with a TV the patient can watch during testing.