Magnetic Resonance Imaging – What Is It?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or more popularly known as MRI is a process that uses radio waves, a magnet and computer software to scan the internal parts of the body. It could be two dimensional or three dimensional. With MRI, the patient has to be completely enclosed inside a cylinder throughout the scan.  Open MRI which is less popular is quite similar to the conventional MRI. The major difference is that an open MRI has a larger opening as compared to the standard MRI machine. Some open MRIs have magnets that do not fully surround the body. This however, cannot do all the functions of a typical MRI, so the availability of usage varies per case.

Open MRI is Used in These Cases:

  1. Open MRI is most preferable for patients with claustrophobia or the fear or discomfort with small or enclosed spaces, this makes them feel more at ease and comfortable during the process. This is necessary as patients needs to remain still during the entire scan.
  2. Patients with larger physical build up to 500 to 550 pounds or patients with wide shoulders may not fit into the traditional MRIs cylinder, thus an open MRI is more preferable.
  3. This kind of machine is recommended for patients with disabilities such as those who are wheelchair-bound. An open MRI makes the transfer from the wheelchair to the machine easier, more comfortable and safer.
  4. This is highly suggested for children. Most children or even teenagers will not take an MRI scan lightly. They most definitely will need their parents or guardians to stay with them in the room and hold their hands during the procedure. With open MRI, parents or nurses could also entertain them with videos or music to help them stay still and calm.
  5. An open MRI allows additional specialty testing like musculoskeletal, abdominal and neurological testing, as well as diffusion work. It is possible since the radiologists and MRI technologists can better position the patient to capture accurate images.

An Open MRI May be Used in Performing These Tests:

  1. Cranial examinations to look for signs of tumors, aneurysm, nerve injury or damage caused by stroke.
  2. Chest exams to check the cardiac muscles, heart valves, blood vessels and detect signs of lung or breast cancer.
  3. To perform circulatory exams for signs of blocked and torn blood vessels or aneurysms
  4. Abdominal exam to check the liver, pancreas, bladder, gallbladder and kidneys for infections or possibly tumors
  5. This is used to check the uterus and ovaries of women and prostate in men.
  6. Useful in checking if patient has arthritis, tumor or torn ligaments in the bone or joints.
  7. Spinal exam to look into swollen discs that put pressure on the nerves and for spinal tumors.

Open MRI scans just like the regular MRI is safe and has no known side effects to the patients. Very rare complications with contrast dye arise from this test. However, open MRI is not available in all medical facilities.