When is an MRI Warranted?

Imaging technology has come a long way, and it can save lives. Today, physicians use the technology, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to create detailed images of organs and tissues within your body.

This helps to diagnose and create a treatment strategy for a wide variety of conditions. If you’ve recently been told that you need an MRI, you may wonder whether it’s necessary. Here’s what you should know about MRI scans and their use in diagnosing orthopedic conditions.

What is an MRI scan?

An MRI machine uses a large magnet combined with radio waves and computer technology to produce sliced images of the body’s internal organs and structures. This technology is noninvasive and does not emit radiation.

The scanner itself looks like a large tube. Patients lie on a table and slide into the machine. It’s important to remain still to create accurate cross-sectional images. Once the images are created, a radiologist views the images and uses the information to diagnose problems within the body.

A number of scenarios warrant getting an MRI. Your provider may order a scan to help diagnose:

  • Spine problems
  • Cartilage abnormalities
  • Cysts within your body
  • Problems with your spinal cord
  • Ligament issues

These are just a few conditions where an orthopedist may order an MRI.

MRI vs. CT scan: Which is right for you?

Both MRI and computed tomography (CT) scans create images of the body’s internal structures. Under certain circumstances, a CT scan is more appropriate than an MRI. Only your doctor can determine which imaging technology is best for your unique situation.

The primary difference between an MRI and a CT scan is that an MRI uses radio waves and a CT scan involves specialized X-ray technology. However, MRIs are better at visualizing certain body structures than CT scans. This is how your provider will determine which technology is right for you.

MRI advantageous for viewing soft tissues

An MRI is commonly warranted when there’s a need to view detailed images of soft tissues, such as cartilage and ligaments. MRI technology does this better than CT scans. This allows your provider to pick up problems that may be invisible using other imaging technology.

On the other hand, if your provider wants to check solid tissues, like bone, a CT scan is likely the preferred choice. For example, your provider may order a CT scan to check for problems with your spine.

Some patients may want to choose an MRI over a CT scan simply because they wish to avoid radiation. It’s important to know that the benefits of getting a CT scan when appropriate outweigh the risks. Your provider will explain why one imaging technology is warranted over another in your case.

What should you know about MRIs before getting one?

Some patients get anxious about having to slide into the tube of the MRI machine. If confined spaces cause you difficulties, discuss it with your Barrington Orthopedic Specialists doctor. Physicians can prescribe anti-anxiety medication to keep you relaxed while getting your MRI.

MRI machines use powerful magnets. Prior to scheduling your MRI, the staff will ensure that you can safely undergo this imaging. Patients with metal inside their body are usually unable to have an MRI. The clinical staff will go over everything in detail to ensure that you’re properly prepared for your MRI scan.

The orthopedic surgeons, rehabilitation specialists and clinical staff at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists are experts at diagnosing and treating bone and joint problems. Our MRI department is offered at the Schaumburg location at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists.  Please call 847 285-4200 to schedule an appointment.