A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a common procedure using strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within the body.
When MRI was first introduced in 1985, only large hospitals could afford an MRI scanner. That is why patients do not hesitate to have their MRI scan at a hospital because that is where they were normally done. But that has changed!
Having an MRI scan done in a hospital can cost both your insurance company and the patient 3-4 times more for the exact same scan! That is correct, the scan quality is exactly the same, the reading of the scan is the same, but you and your insurance company are paying 3-4 time more. Even some imaging centers that charged lower rates in the past have converted to hospital rates. Make sure before you have a scan elsewhere that you call to see what you might be paying for that MRI scan. Then call us.
The development of MRI revolutionized the way see into the human body. We can now determine abnormalities within the body much earlier, and with much more precision than ever before; and without using harmful X-rays.
What Is an MRI Scan?
An MRI scan uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed images of a patient’s internal organs and structures.
Typically an MRI machine resembles a large tube with a table in the middle, allowing the patient to slide into the tunnel for the scan. This is sometimes problematic for larger or claustrophobic patients.
Open Imaging was the first facility in the Intermountain West to install a different type of MRI scanner that did not use a tunnel. It was “open” on all sides allowing the patient to feel more comfortable. The disadvantage of the open scanner that we installed in 1999 was that the magnet was not as strong as the tube scanners and the image quality was not as good.
That all changed in 2011 when we installed the first true High-Field Open scanner in Utah. This scanner has the same (or in some cases better) image quality as the tube scanners but it is open on all sides. This is very important to claustrophobic patients as well as allowing parents to sit with their child while they are having the scan.
We also have a traditional tube scanner. Because we have both types of scanners, only Open Imaging can direct the patient to exactly the best scanner for his/her needs. No other facility in the Intermountain West has the capabilities that we have at Open Imaging.
How Does an MRI Scanner Work?
Magnetic resonance imaging machines, or MRIs, use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to look inside a patient without the need for surgery or the use of damaging radiation such as X-rays. MRIs have become the preferred modality of choice in diagnosing complex issues.
An MRI is noisy because its magnetic field is created by running electrical current through a coiled wire—an electromagnet. The electromagnet is switched on and off resulting in the loud clicking noise that is part of having an MRI exam
An MRI scan differs from a CT scan and X-rays because MRI does not use ionizing radiation. When used improperly radiation can be potentially harmful to a patient.
An MRI Scan Is a Useful Tool
The following are just a few examples where an MRI scanner is used:
- Abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord
- Tumors, cysts, and other abnormalities in various parts of the body
- Diagnosing abnormalities in joints, ligaments and other tissues
- When looking for types of vascular abnormalities in the body
Preparing For Your MRI Scans
There is little to no preparation required for patients before an MRI scan. Upon arrival at our center you may be asked to change into a gown (depending on what exam was ordered). Because we use a very strong magnet it is critical that no metal objects go into the scanner. In some cases the patient will be asked to remove any metal jewelry or accessories that could interfere with the machine.
Sometimes, patients will be injected with MRI contrast liquid to improve the appearance of a certain body tissue. Earplugs or headphones will be provided to lessen the loud noises of the scanner.
During an MRI Scan
Our technologists are very familiar with being sensitive to the needs of the patient. We are never in a rush to get to the next patient. Unlike having a scan in a hospital where patients are frequently bumped by “emergency scans”, we take whatever time is necessary to get the best scans possible. Most patients do not even have to change clothes for their MRI exam.
We pride ourselves on taking the time to ensure the patient is comfortable and has a full understanding of exactly what needs to happen in order to get the best scan possible. All of our scanners have an intercom to ensure the patient is comfortable and we are in constant communication with the patient throughout the MRI exam.
During the scan, it is important to stay perfectly still. Any movement will result in blurry images, in some cases the scan will have to be repeated. The patient will experience loud noises during the scan which is perfectly normal. We provide earplugs to every patient to minimize the noise. If the patient feels uncomfortable during the procedure, they can speak to the MRI technician via the intercom and request the scan be stopped.
After an MRI Scan
After the MRI scan, a patient can immediately return to his/her normal routine. There are no after-effects unless the patient required a mild sedative in order to accomplish the scan. The completed scan is then read or interpreted by a doctor that is trained to read MRI scans.
Unlike many other MRI facilities, Open Imaging insists that our MRI scans are interpreted by a subspecialty radiologist. A subspecialty radiologist is one that is not only trained to read MRI scans, but he/she has taken one to three additional years of training to read MRI exams within their specialty. For example, if the patient had an MRI scan of the knee, that scan is read by a musculoskeletal radiologist that specialized in reading MRI scans of the knee. Likewise, if the patient had an MRI scan of the brain, that scan is read by a neuro-radiologist that has additional years of training to read those MRI scans. This is an important point of distinction between Open Imaging and other MRI centers.
The radiologist who reads the scan will prepare a written report. That report will then be delivered the physician who ordered the scan usually within 24 hours of the MRI scan. The radiologist cannot discuss the results directly with the patient. All results must be sent to the ordering physician directly who is prepared to take that report into consideration of the overall treatment for the patient.