MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and it uses a magnetic field (hence the risks of office supplies being attracted, see below) and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body.
“It can also draw metal objects into the magnetic field, and there are still occasional accidents when standard safety procedures are not followed and M.R.I. magnets have sucked in hospital beds, screwdrivers, oxygen tanks and other metal objects.”
But seriously, that isn’t even listed as a risk on radiologyinfo.org. So probably no need to get too worked up. Some things to consider though:
Despite the use of “radio wave” above, MRIs do not have a radiation risk, like x-rays do. They are painless and considered non-invasive.
MRIs are loud, and it should be a consolation that they give you earplugs, because it sounds like this. (Here is a short article about why MRIs make so much noise, if you are the curious type.)
This type of medical imaging can help to diagnose injuries and guide appropriate treatments. The test is performed by a technician, and the results are interpreted by a radiologist. Treatment options are addressed by your treating physician and/or a specialist in your type of injury.
You will be asked about any embedded metal or devices in your body (it is a giant magnet, after all, and can interfere with the way devices work, or cause shifting and warming of metal that is in your body). Certainly, this also means you should also leave your spare change, jewelry, and belt buckle in the waiting room with a responsible party. And notify the tech about surgically implanted metal pins, clips, stents, pacemakers, artificial limbs, dental work, you know, metal stuff. Always disclose if you think you might be pregnant, across the board for all imaging tests. Also, inform the medical staff of any known allergies.
Best to let your physician know ahead of time if you get twitchy in tight spaces. Because this is a very tight (and loud) space, and you aren’t supposed to move. There is medication for that though, don’t worry. If you are really claustrophobic and live in Montana, you are in luck as there is an Open MRI machine at Great Falls Clinic that is open on the sides, plus you can see scenic Great Falls while you are there.
In some circumstances, an MRI will be ordered with “contrast.” This gets a bit more complicated. Contrast is a type of dye that is used to make certain types of tissues more visible in the imaging and can show abnormalities that allow the physician to have a better picture of the body part being addressed. In the cases where contrast is required, there will be additional questions about allergies and whether you have diabetes or kidney disease, that sort of stuff. These questions have to do with the type of material used as the contrast and how that might affect your body.
MRIs are one of the best tools we have to get objective evidence of injuries and diseases, and then treat patients in the most effective and efficient way. So take some deep breaths and climb in.
*Editor’s note: Don’t worry ICD-10’s got you covered, “proponents of continuous inpatient sedation won a victory today when CMS approved MRI Dysphoria as a legitimate thing that an otherwise well-adjusted adult can claim as an affliction.”