With numerous image scanning modalities available, people generally make assumptions about individual imaging technologies based on attributes from the collective group. These assumptions gradually become common myths and misconceptions, which may create fear and hesitation around receiving various types of scans..
At Prenuvo, we constantly hear these misconceptions and it’s time that we debunk these common MRI myths.
What is an MRI?
An MRI is a medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body. Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets.
What are MRI scans used for?
MRI scans present an opportunity for doctors to examine the human body using a painless, radiation-free, non-invasive method. It is often used to image soft tissue within the body. As it does not use ionizing radiation, MRI scans have gained popularity over other imaging techniques such as Computed Tomography (CT) and X-Rays, which do require radiation. MRIs can provide clearer images of the brain, spinal cord and nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons compared to CT and X-Ray. However, it is not always the most effective at visualizing bone, which is why CT and X-Rays are still commonly used to examine bone injury or diseases.
Common MRI Misconceptions
Now that we have an idea of what MRI scans can do, let’s debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding MRIs.
1. All MRIs are the same
There are various types of MRI machines and examinations. Additionally, as technology has advanced, MRI machines can vary in magnetic strengths as well as bore size (width of the imaging space).
The magnetic strength of an MRI dictates the image quality and can range from 0.5 Tesla to 3.0 Tesla. Higher Tesla measurements do not necessarily indicate that the machine is better. For example, a 3.0 Tesla MRI machine is a great option for a detailed brain study. However, it performs poorly for whole body imaging due to wavelength interference and imaging artifacts. A lower tesla machine can be more beneficial for those with implanted devices as there is a lower chance of displacing objects.
In addition to variations in magnetic strength, MRIs also vary in their bore size. The bore of an MRI machine is the center or the opening of the machine. This is where the magnet is located and can vary from 24-28 inches (60-70cm). The larger bore machines make it more comfortable for patients to get scanned, reducing the feeling of being confined to a small space. At Prenuvo, we are especially conscious of making the MRI experience as pleasant and easy as possible and often find that members are surprised at how spacious and well lit our machines are. Additionally, Prenuvo MRI machines are open on both ends of the machine.
Along with the different types of MRI machines, there are also different types of MRI examinations designed for capturing specific images for various tissues in the body.
- Functional MRI (FMRI). A safe and non-invasive technique used for measuring and mapping brain activity. It is often used by researchers and physicians to better understand, diagnose, monitor and treat various conditions in the brain. FMRI differs from an MRI in that it takes images of brain activity while it’s performing a particular function, whereas an MRI scan can take an image of the brain’s structure to detect cysts, tumors, bleeding, and structural abnormalities.
- Breast MRI. As the name suggests, breast MRI looks at the tissue in the breast. For patients who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, a breast MRI can be used to supplement a mammogram. It can detect abnormalities and masses much earlier than other forms of imaging.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA). This type of MRI looks specifically at the body’s blood vessels and offers a less invasive and painful alternative to a traditional angiogram. Doctors may recommend an MRA examination if you have a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels somewhere in your body.
- Magnetic Resonance Venography (MRV). This type of MRI looks specifically at blood flow in the veins and can detect blood clots or other abnormalities. When visualizing blood vessels, it’s important to distinguish it from MRA which looks at arteries, which is a type of blood vessel that brings oxygen-rich blood to the body’s organs.
- Cardiac MRI. Often used for producing detailed images of the heart to see the structure and function, valves, and major arteries and veins. This type of MRI helps doctors to diagnose and assess coronary heart disease, heart failure and heart defects.
2. MRIs emit harmful radiation
This is the most common misconception about MRIs, as they do not emit ionizing radiation. MRI machines use powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the human body. Unlike other imaging techniques such as CT and X-Rays that do expose patients to some form of ionizing radiation, MRI is among one of the safest imaging techniques available.
3. MRI scans cause infertility
This myth goes hand in hand with the misconception regarding radiation. Since MRIs do not use radiation, they cannot cause infertility. Even scans like CT and X-rays, which do emit radiation, are very unlikely to cause infertility. For the human body to be affected in this way, you must be exposed to a significant amount of radiation.
4. People with metal implants cannot get an MRI scan
Having something metallic in your body does not necessarily mean that you can’t get an MRI scan. However, it is important to disclose this information to the MRI technologists that are conducting the scan. On a case-by-case basis, they will determine if there are any risks, or if further measures need to be taken to ensure the scan is safe.
For example, titanium implants, metal tooth fillings and many medical devices such as cochlear implants are MRI compatible. Ultimately, patients should consult their doctor or Prenuvo staff prior to the examination to determine whether or not they are eligible for a scan.
5. MRIs are very small and cramped
In the past, the traditional closed-bore MRI scanner was the only option available, where patients were essentially lying in an enclosed tube. This caused many to experience claustrophobia, which became one of the main issues with the closed-bore MRI. As technology has advanced, we now have open-bore MRI machines available, such as those used at Prenuvo.
The open-bore scanners are generally wider than the traditional closed-bore scanners, with a 28 inches (70cm) bore opening which greatly eases the claustrophobic feeling for patients. It also has more head room compared to traditional MRI scanners, making it a more comfortable experience for patients.
Debunking MRI Myths
When thinking about undertaking any medical procedure, it’s important that you do your research beforehand. Consulting with your doctor can help you determine whether getting an MRI is suitable for you. At Prenuvo, our knowledgeable team members are able to answer any questions that you may have so don’t hesitate to contact us.
Prenuvo specializes in whole body MRI, aimed at early detection of cancer and disease. Our whole body MRI screens from head to ankles, checks all your major organs, can detect tumors as small as 1cm, and checks for 500 medical conditions, including cancer, spinal degeneration, fatty liver disease and more. Contact our team now about how a Prenuvo scan can benefit your health.