LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, offers an unparalleled look inside the human body. It's an amazing piece of technology and in this Healthcast, we show you how it works.
An attempt at shaping up left Jennifer MacDonald in pain. "I was exercising incorrectly, trying to get in shape," say Jennifer, "so, yeah...I hurt my back. I have two bulging disks and one torn disk."
With stabbing pains lingering in her lower back, Jennifer's doctor had to take an extra measure to pinpoint the extent of her injury. "He did an x-ray, he really couldn't see everything that he needed to see," says Jennifer, "so he recommended an MRI."
MRI uses the magnetic properties of your body to generate soft tissue contrast. Dr. Bruce Knox with Open Air MRI explains how radio frequency pulses specific to your body's hydrogen protons can create an image. "When you're in an MRI," says Dr. Knox, "you hear a lot of knocking. Those are actually radio frequency pulses that deflect those protons out of alignment and then depending on the actual tissue type and the environment of those tissues, they come back into alignment."
It's those differences in timing that allow an image to be created and radiologists can then tell differences between normal tissue and abnormal tissues. Dr. Knox says, "It's especially good for joint imaging, neuro applications looking at the brain, the spinal cord, the vertebral column."
To show you the process of getting an MRI, we followed Jennifer as she had hers. "They put me on the table," says Jennifer, "they made sure that I was comfortable, they asked if you want any music, they continually ask if you're okay."
Dr. Knox explains the next step, "Our technologist will scout the patient and try to get them positioned just right in the center of the magnet and then we'll acquire a number of different sequences to try to find out what's going on with the soft tissues and the particular body part that we're looking at."
While the best images come from the high field unit, for larger patients or claustrophobic people, there is also an open air unit. "It's a weaker magnet," says Dr. Knox, "but it's still very diagnostic and there's little that we can't see with this magnet."
Within a few hours of the images being taken, radiologists can send them to a patient's physician and a specific diagnosis can be identified.
*After Jennifer's MRI, her doctor was able to diagnose her lower back problems and she's now doing physical therapy sessions.