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To the core of the matter - magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

If you really want to get to the core issue with an illness in the truest sense of the word, you are well placed to do so with the diagnostic method of 'magnetic resonance imaging' (MRI). As the name suggests, this type of modern imaging in medicine is based on the magnetic nuclear or proton resonance of individual atoms. MRI is therefore often more sophisticated than any other diagnostic technique and usually used only when other methods have achieved little.

Operating principle of the MRT

MRI was discovered by scientists Bloch and Purcell as long ago as in the forties of the last century and applied in physics and chemistry. Lauterbur and Mansfield in the seventies brought it to the interest of the medical world. Like their predecessors, they too were awarded the Nobel Prize for their achievement.

The method uses the nuclei of hydrogen atoms, which are abundantly present in the body, but in different densities and in compounds with other atoms depending on the organ or tissue. When the patient is pushed on a mobile pedestal into the narrow tubular MRI machine in computer tomography (CT), there is a strong magnetic field that moves otherwise random protons in a particular direction. They can be moved from this position again with radio waves from a radio coil positioned around the body. These excitation pulses can be perceived as audible knocking sounds. If the radio waves are switched off again, they return to their previous location (relaxation). Energy is then released in different ways according to the type of tissue, which is then is forwarded by fine antennae in the form of electrical impulses to a computer. This calculates and creates cross-sectional images of the body interior in any orientation without the patient having to change position in the tube.

This distinguishes the MRI method

The sectional images of MRI are more precise and sophisticated than those of other methods, especially images of structures that are enriched with plenty of water. It is the optimum process then for soft tissues, for the brain, blood vessels, spinal cord, for example; less suitable for bone and air rich structures such as the lungs. The smallest inflammations can also be detected just as outstandingly with MRI,  like strokes that are located and analysed in a very short time. Since MRI shows up any variations in tissues, among other things changing structures and processes in the field of elementary particles, this method is also at the forefront of more sophisticated cancer diagnosis and healing. In this way, for example, tumour cell characteristics can be detected - an extended scope of application of newer MRI methods. In addition, metabolic disorders can be detected, as can causes of epilepsy seizures. MRI therefore has a broad range of application, and is used where not much can be achieved by simpler methods.

What should be considered with MRI?

Unlike X-ray or CT this investigation method carries no radiation exposure with it. Since the patient is exposed to a magnetic field in the tube though, no metallic parts should be present in or on the body. Nor should any electronic items or smart cards, since they can interfere with the magnetic field or become unusable. For example, people with pacemakers or metal heart valves should stay well clear of MRI. During the examination, the patient has to remain as calm as possible and concentrate on regular breathing. Headphones protect the patient from the loud knocking noises. The patient can get the doctor’s attention and interrupt the examination at any time via a bell. Sometimes a usually well-tolerated contrast agent is additionally injected in order to improve the results of imaging. On average, MRT takes about half an hour and is divided into sequences with individual measurement intervals of up to ten minutes.

Source: www.gesund-vital-online.de/kat/gesundheit/diagnoseverfahren/