ZocdocAnswersWhy do doctors use magnetic resonance imagine to find health problems?

Question

Why do doctors use magnetic resonance imagine to find health problems?

How does it differ from other tests? Couldn't they do an X-ray?

Answer

Magnetic resonance imaging is an advanced technique to look at detailed images of the body's inner organs and other structures. The MRI differs from other techniques in that it uses a large powerful magnet to gather data needed to make the pictures. These pictures that are developed can be constructed into 3 dimensional images if needed. In addition soft tissue structures and nerves can be seen on MRI. The disadvantages of MRIs is that they are expensive, the images can take some time to gather (up to an hour or more in the scanner), and they take longer to read. Plus, the tube that you need to sit in to gather the data is small. Thus, patients that are claustrophobic (fear of enclosed spaces) sometimes cannot have an MRI or they need to be sedated to have it done. X-rays are also used to gather images of the body, but the information is not nearly as detailed. The images are only 2 dimensional, and only certain types of structures can be seen. Plus the test uses radiation. While the amount of radiation in an x-ray is quite small, we like to avoid it whenever we can. The advantage of an x-ray is that the test is fast, inexpensive, and can be read very quickly. I hope this helps answer your question.

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