Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

What Is MRI?

MRI is one of the most powerful and advanced tools available to radiologists today. It uses powerful magnetic fields and radio waves instead of x-rays to create highly detailed images of the human body. It is a non-invasive imaging procedure that detects many diseases and conditions in their very earliest stages, including many common types of cancer. In addition to enabling an early diagnosis, MRI scanning makes it possible to assess the degree to which a disease has progressed and to make judgments about the most effective therapy.

MRI is also a superb tool for evaluating orthopedic and joint ailments, most sports injuries, and herniated discs in the spine. Chattanooga Imaging has consistently been at the forefront of the latest applications of MRI, such as examinations of the breast, pelvis, prostate gland, arteries, and bile ducts.

Chattanooga Imaging offers not only High-Field (3T and 1.5T) but also Open MRI systems. Our OPEN MRI is used for most types of MRI studies, and is especially beneficial for patients who are uncomfortable in a traditional MRI system. Our high-field MRI systems are capable of performing some of the most advanced neurological and vascular procedures available to date. Our systems offer the latest in breast imaging software, as well as several other state-of-the-art options that can reduce patient motion artifact and even decrease the amount of time necessary to perform an exam.

Chattanooga Imaging offers the following MRI procedures:

  • Body MRI: Enables detailed examination of chest organs, the abdomen, and the pelvis, including the lungs, liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas, abdominal vessels, uterus, ovaries, and prostate gland. This detailed look at major organs allows more accurate diagnosis and assessment of tumors and other problems. MRI is also used to evaluate breast disease and detect breast cancer in its earliest stage. MRI is the preferred diagnostic tool when examining the reproductive systems of both men and women, as well as the pelvis, hips, and bladder because it does not require any exposure to radiation.
  • Musculoskeletal MRI: Gives physicians a very clear view of soft tissues, and is therefore considered to be the best choice for examining major joints, the spine, and soft tissues of the extremities. This test is often used to diagnose disc problems, sports injuries, and injuries caused by repetitive motion. MRI images help physicians find and accurately identify problems that cause pain, swelling, or bleeding in joint and bone tissues, providing a clear picture of tears and injuries to tendons, ligaments, muscles, cartilage, and fractures that cannot be seen on regular x-rays. MRI also helps physicians assess degenerative conditions such as arthritis, wear and tear of joint surfaces, and herniated discs, and is used by many neurosurgeons for post-trauma spinal examinations. In addition, it is a very helpful diagnostic tool for various infections and tumors of the bones, joints, and soft tissues.
  • Brain MRI: MRI is a highly effective tool for looking at brain tumors and stroke damage, and for evaluating a number of chronic nervous system disorders. Many physicians use it to study brain abnormalities in patients suffering from dementia or diseases of the pituitary gland. MRI can also detect very small tissue abnormalities in the eyes and inner ear.
  • Breast MRI: Magnetic resonance breast imaging (MRI) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1991 for use as a supplemental tool, in addition to mammography, to help diagnose breast cancer. Breast MRI is an excellent problem-solving technology, and is often used to investigate potential breast problems first identified with mammography, physical exam, or other imaging exams. It is also an excellent tool for imaging the augmented breast, including both the breast implant itself and the breast tissue surrounding it. (Abnormalities or signs of breast cancer can sometimes be obscured by the implant on a mammogram.)In addition, MRI is used to evaluate the stages of breast cancer, determine the best treatment, and for post-treatment patient follow-up. The technology available through the HD Vibrant platform allows rapid high resolution assessment of both breasts at multiple angles. Patients are no longer inconvenienced by a separate exam for each breast; they are now imaged at the same time. Breast images are assessed by the radiologist using exciting new computer assisted detection software called CADStream. Vibrant gives us a much greater opportunity to detect abnormalities with potentially life-saving consequences.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): For many patients with arterial disease, radiology — rather than surgery — is the key to successful treatment. MRA helps detect problems with blood vessels and provides a solid foundation for making treatment decisions. For example, the carotid arteries in the neck, which carry blood to the brain, are often the site of atherosclerosis, a condition that can reduce or block the blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke. For patients that undergo an ultrasound study that shows this condition, many surgeons today will confirm these findings using MRA before performing surgery to correct the problem, eliminating the need for catheter angiography.MRA is also used to evaluate diseased arteries in the brain, often making invasive catheter studies unnecessary, and can also detect disease in the aorta and the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs, kidneys, and legs. For patients with a family history of aneurysm, a screening by MRA can detect such a ballooning out of a segment of a blood vessel wall. Once detected, the problem can be corrected surgically, avoiding potentially fatal bleeding.

What To Expect

An MRI Scan takes about 20-30 minutes. Sometimes a contrast material is given through a vein during the scan. You will be lying on a flat table during the scan, and you will hear a knocking sound during the procedure. While the exam is taking place, it is important that you remain very still to ensure clearly readable results. If you need the technologist’s attention at any time, just ask.

After your scan, the technologist will help you off the table. The images will then be sent to a radiologist for interpretation. The radiologist will want to compare these images to previous MRI studies, so please let us know if you have had an earlier MRI exam. When finished studying your images, the radiologist will send a full report to your physician.

Patient Preparation

MRI Abdomen Nothing to eat or drink four hours prior to exam.

(Non-abdominal) No special preparation is required before your MRI exam.

Metal objects, such as jewelry, hairpins, and car keys, are not allowed in the scan room, and you will be asked to leave any such items in a safe place before beginning your MRI. We will also ask you whether you have any metal implants or a pacemaker, since some patients with these devices may not be able to have an MRI.