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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another way of producing precise images of the body’s internal organs without the use of x-rays. The machine generates high-resolution images which appear as cross-sections of anatomy. MRI uses a large magnet, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce its images. The computer processes these signals to produce highly detailed images of your anatomy. MRI is also capable of producing those images in an infinite number of projections throughout the body. These images are useful in the early discovery and treatment of many conditions and diseases. If you would like to know more about diagnosing and treating your gastrointestinal condition with an MRI, then contact a GI Alliance gastroenterologist to learn more.

A few examples of what an MRI scan would be used for are:

  • Evaluating tumors or cysts
  • Joint injuries or abnormalities
  • Heart issues
  • Issues with the spinal cord or brain
  • Breast cancer screening for high-risk patients
  • Liver diseases
  • Digestive system organs

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is a non-invasive technique on the MRI scanner to image blood vessels of any body part, most commonly those in the head and neck. MRA is an alternative to conventional angiography which requires the insertion of needles and catheters into the blood vessels with the use of x-ray.

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is an MRI scan that creates images of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. MRCP+ uses advanced image processing techniques to enhance MRCP scans; creating 3D models of the biliary tree with measurements of duct widths. The measurements provided by MRCP+ support clinicians in their decision-making for patients with biliary disease, including PSC.

On the day of your exam, wear comfortable clothing without metal zippers, buttons, hooks, etc. If you are having a “with contrast” exam you are instructed to refrain from eating or drinking 2 hours before your exam. A certified MRI technician will assist you in preparing for the exam and placing you on the scanner bed. The exam will be conducted based on the instructions from a board-certified radiologist who sub-specializes in magnetic resonance imaging. You will lie on a padded scanner bed and the part of your body to be scanned will be properly positioned within the machine. Based on the type of MRI you are having and the number of images required, scans will last 20-45 minutes. Because MRI uses no x-rays, it presents no apparent risk to adults and children. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should consult your physician before having an MRI scan.

There are some conditions that are not conducive to high-field MRI. Some of these conditions may include:

  • History of a heart pacemaker
  • History of metal in your body
  • History of artificial heart valve
  • History of brain aneurysm surgery
  • Severe claustrophobia

If you have questions about getting an MRI, please consult your GI Alliance physician.

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MRI does not use x-rays like CT (computed tomography) scan. With a CT, x-rays are sent through the body, one section at a time. The computer can then construct the information and create images of the body. MRI involves sending safe levels of electromagnetic waves, such as those used in radio transmission, in a safe magnetic environment. The body then sends tiny radio waves back to a computer recorder. The different cells in the body can then, in turn, create their own signal with each molecule having its own radiofrequency. The computer can perceive even minute differences between the lengths of the radio waves and, using that information, can create an image of the body, one section at a time Because each uses an entirely different technique for imaging the body, the results display different characteristics of the body’s anatomy and the diseases that affect them.

An MRI can be a valuable tool in the treatment and diagnosis of various GI tract conditions and illnesses. When you look for a physician to help perform or interpret your MRI imaging tests, you can trust the nation's leading physician-led network of expert gastroenterologists, GI Alliance. If you have questions about your MRI or getting an MRI scan, then please talk to a local GI Alliance physician to learn more.

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