Why it's done

MRI is a noninvasive way for your doctor to examine your organs, tissues and skeletal system. It produces high-resolution images of the inside of the body that help diagnose a variety of problems.

MRI of the brain and spinal cord

MRI is the most frequently used imaging test of the brain and spinal cord. It's often performed to help diagnose:

  • Aneurysms of cerebral vessels
  • Disorders of the eye and inner ear
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Stroke
  • Tumors
  • Brain injury from trauma

A special type of MRI is the functional MRI of the brain (fMRI). It measures the metabolic changes that occur within the brain. It may be used to examine the brain's anatomy and determine which parts of the brain are handling critical functions. This helps identify important language and movement control areas in the brains of people being considered for brain surgery. Functional MRI may also be used to assess damage from a head injury or from disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

MRI of the heart and blood vessels

MRI that focuses on the heart or blood vessels can assess:

  • The size and function of the heart's chambers
  • Thickness and movement of the walls of the heart
  • The extent of damage caused by heart attack or heart disease
  • Structural problems in the aorta, such as aneurysms or dissections
  • Inflammation or blockages in the blood vessels

MRI of other internal organs

MRI may be used to check for tumors or other abnormalities of many organs in the body, including the:

  • Liver and bile ducts
  • Kidneys
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Uterus
  • Ovaries
  • Prostate

MRI of bones and joints

MRI may be used to help evaluate:

  • Joint abnormalities caused by traumatic or repetitive injuries, such as torn cartilage or ligaments
  • Disk abnormalities in the spine
  • Bone infections
  • Tumors of the bones and soft tissues

MRI of the breasts

MRI may be used in addition to mammography to detect breast cancer, particularly in women who have dense breast tissue or who may be at high risk of the disease.

Aug. 19, 2016
References
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  6. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging-MRI_UCM_441632_Article.jsp. Accessed June 30, 2016.
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  8. MRI of the musculoskeletal system. American College of Radiology, Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=muscmr. Accessed June 30, 2016.
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  10. AskMayoExpert. Cochlear implant and magnetic resonance imaging. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
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