Magnetic Resonance Imaging


  • Magnetic resonance imaging (also referred to as MRI) is a painless diagnostic test that uses radio waves, magnetic fields, and computer software to create highly detailed cross-sectional images of the body’s structures.
  • Forms of MRI are used to assess organs such as the liver, the brain, the kidneys, and the blood vessels. Abnormalities in blood vessels such as narrowing and aneurysms are easily detected.
  • One advantage of MRI is that radiation is not necessary.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a painless, safe, and radiation-free test. MRI uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed images of internal structures. MRI equipment consists of a table that slides in and out of a large cylinder-shaped machine.
  • MRI helps physicians detect or determine the severity of the following vascular conditions:
    • Aortic aneurysms
    • Stroke and vascular malformations
    • Thoracic outlet syndrome
    • Fibroid tumors
    • Lymphedema
    • Liver cancer

Typically, other tests are used to diagnose vascular disease before an MRI is needed.


The patient does not need to make any special preparations for MRI. For comfort, the patient should empty the bladder before the test begins.

MRI may not be suitable for some patients, including those who:

  • Weigh more than 300 pounds
  • Have a pacemaker, implantable defibrillator, metallic implants, or medicated skin patch
  • Need continuous life-support
  • Are pregnant
  • Have claustrophobia
  • Tend to experience extreme anxiety, confusion, or agitation


An MRI takes 30 to 90 minutes. The patient should remove any metal items such as jewelry or a wristwatch.

The technologist may offer the patient earplugs to buffer the patient from the noise of the MRI machine. An intercom allows the patient to communicate with the operator. For some MRI tests, a contrast liquid may be injected into the veins.

As the MRI table slides into the machine, the patient is asked to lie completely still. Some patients may feel a mild tingling in any metal dental fillings. The only discomfort associated with the test is stiffness in the back caused by having to lie still on a hard surface for an extended period. An open MRI or a sedative may be an option for claustrophobic patients.


If patients are given contrast dye as part of the test, they will be asked to drink liquids to flush the dye from their bodies.

If patients receive a sedative, they will need to arrange a ride home. Otherwise, patients can resume normal activities immediately.

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Medical Review Date: October 8, 2007 / Copyright © 2012 NorthPoint Domain, Inc. All rights reserved. This material cannot be reproduced in digital or printed form without the express consent of NorthPoint Domain, Inc. Unauthorized copying or distribution of NorthPoint Domain’s Content is an infringement of the copyright holder’s rights.