Other Common Names: Magnetic Resonance Imaging
MRI with or without contrast
Description: An MRI machine or scanner uses a powerful magnet and radio waves linked to a computer to create remarkably clear and detailed cross sectional images of the body. To visualize an MRI, think of your body as a loaf of bread with its many slices. The MRI allows the physician to see many different “slices” of a body part by taking pictures from outside the body. The “slices” can be displayed on a video monitor and saved on film or disk for analysis.
For some MRI studies, a contrast agent, usually gadolinium may be used to enhance the visibility of certain tissues. The contrast agent is given via a small intravenous (IV) line placed in a vein in your arm. See ACRIN’s “About Imaging Agents or Tracers” Information page for more information.
Examples of Uses: MRI can be used to view, monitor, or diagnose:
- spine, joint or muscle problems
- abdominal tumors and disorders
- brain tumors and abnormalities
- breast cancer
- heart or blood vessel problems
Specialized MRI techniques: Sometimes an MRI scan will include a special method that provides additional information to your physician. Some specialized MRI techniques are described below.
Diffusion MRI- Shows the microscopic movement of water molecules within tissue. It can provide information on the microstructure of the tissue as well as swelling within tissues. This method has been used primarily with brain pathology, but is being studied for other uses.
Dynamic Contrast Enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) – Uses a continuous series of images taken before, during and after injection of a contrast agent (much like a movie or video). DCE-MRI can provide information about tumor blood flow.
Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)- Uses a magnetic field and radio wave energy to look at blood vessels, most often the arteries in or near the heart, brain, abdomen or legs. . A contrast or imaging agent is often used to make the blood vessels show up more clearly on the image,
Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS)- Provides important information about the chemical activity within cells . Some tumors are known to contain high levels of specific chemicals. MRS can also be used to identify the size and stage of a tumor. Often the MRS results are combined with MRI results to help doctors understand the area of interest more completely.
Perfusion MRI- Shows blood flow within the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) within tissue. This scan provides information related to both amount of blood flow and the time involved. A contrast agent is often used. This method has been used primarily with brain related problems, such as stroke and tumors, but can be used in any situation where blood flow is a critical issue.