Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Basics of MRI

  • MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging; a medical imaging technique used to visualise the structure and function of the body.
  • It uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to generate detailed images of the body’s internal structures.
  • MRI is non-invasive and does not use ionising radiation.

How MRI Works

  • MRI relies on the nuclear magnetic resonance phenomenon. When subjected to a strong magnetic field, certain atomic nuclei can absorb and emit radio frequency energy.
  • The process involves aligning the nucleus of atoms in the body, then disturbing this alignment with a beam of radio waves.
  • When the radio frequency is turned off, the nuclei release energy signals.
  • The signals can be received and processed to build up a detailed image. This image is interpreted by radiologists.

Clinical Applications of MRI

  • MRI is crucial in diagnosing abnormalities in organs, blood vessels and tissues. This includes areas like the brain, spine, joints and heart.
  • It is used to detect certain chronic diseases like cancer or heart diseases.
  • The procedure is vital in the examination of the musculoskeletal system, for conditions like arthritis or sports injuries.
  • It can differentiate between healthy tissues and diseased ones, thus helping in planning treatments and monitoring response to therapy.

Advantages and Limitations of MRI

  • Advantages: MRI provides high resolution images which are clear and highly detailed. It can scan multiple planes without having the patient move. It doesn’t use harmful ionising radiation.
  • Limitations: MRI scans take longer than other imaging methods. They are also more expensive and cannot be used on patients with certain metal implants. People with claustrophobia may have difficulty with the scan due to the machine’s enclosed nature.

Understanding the principles and implications of MRI is crucial for Medical Physics. Its importance in diagnosis and treatment planning means its mastery is essential for any future healthcare professional.