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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

About the procedure

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a non-invasive procedure and is used to discover what kind of tissue exists in a given area of the body.

Non-invasive means that with an MRI, doctors do not have to cut into the patient or push tubes or cameras into the body. Depending on the type of procedure and what the doctors wish to see, the patient lies inside of a large tube and is "read" by using both strong magnetic forces and radio waves. These energies are harmless to you, but they can create a unique map of your body and tell the doctors exactly what sort of tissue exists in a specific part of your body.

Using an MRI, the radiologist can conduct many different examinations for many different patients. Because this machine has an incredible amount of customizability, it is used to diagnose many types of injuries and conditions. The radiologist can use an MRI to determine if cells and tissues in your body are normal or not.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging at Lompoc Valley Medical Center

Here at the Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we have the ability to do the full range of MRI exams including Magnetic Resonance Angiography, the imaging of blood vessels. Our current magnet has been upgraded significantly to permit additional procedures such as breast imaging and vascular studies of extremities. We are expecting to add the capability of MRI guided breast biopsy in the near future.

The Lompoc Valley Medical Center board of directors approved the purchase of a 2nd MRI system which will be located at an out-patient facility. This scanner is an "open bore" system and will accommodate larger patients, and those who suffer from claustrophobia. A new scanner is also planned for the new hospital.

Some of the things an MRI can be used for include:

  • Diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Diagnosing tumors of the pituitary gland and brain
  • Diagnosing infections in the brain, spine or joints
  • Visualizing torn ligaments in the wrist, knee and ankle
  • Visualizing shoulder injuries
  • MRA - Imaging of blood vessels
  • Diagnosing tendonitis
  • Evaluating masses in the soft tissues of the body
  • Evaluating bone tumors , cysts and bulging or herniated discs in the spine
  • Diagnosing strokes in their earliest stages
  • Breast Imaging
  • Vascular studies of extremities.

MRI Drawbacks

  • There are many people who cannot safely be scanned with MRI (for example, because they have pacemakers ), and also people who are too big to be scanned.
  • There are many claustrophobic people in the world, and being in an MRI machine can be a very disconcerting experience for them.
  • The machine makes a tremendous amount of noise during a scan. The noise sounds like a continual, rapid hammering. Patients are given earplugs or stereo headphones to muffle the noise (in most MRI centers you can even bring your own cassette or CD to listen to). The noise is due to the rising electrical current in the wires of the gradient magnets being opposed by the main magnetic field. The stronger the main field, the louder the gradient noise.
  • MRI scans require patients to hold very still for extended periods of time. MRI exams can range in length from 20 minutes to 90 minutes or more. Even very slight movement of the part being scanned can cause very distorted images that will have to be repeated.
  • Orthopedic hardware (screws, plates, artificial joints) in the area of a scan can cause severe artifacts (distortions) on the images. The hardware causes a significant alteration in the main magnetic field. Remember, a uniform field is critical to good imaging.
  • MRI systems are very, very expensive to purchase, and therefore the exams are also very expensive.

More Information

For those interested, there is much information available on the web for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

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