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MRI of the Head

An MRI of the Head is the most sensitive imaging test (particularly in the brain) in routine clinical practice. MR imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor, printed or copied to CD. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays). Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate various parts of the body and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as X-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scanning).

Your doctor may recommend a MRI of the head to help diagnose:

  • Tumors of the brain
  • Developmental anomalies of the brain
  • Vascular anomalies of the head (aneurysm for example)
  • Disorders of the eyes and the inner ear
  • Stroke
  • Trauma patients (in selected patients)
  • Disease in the pituitary gland
  • Certain chronic disorders of the nervous system; such as multiple sclerosis or causes of headache
  • Physicians also use the MR examination to document brain abnormalities in patients with dementia

MRI examinations may be performed on outpatients or inpatients. You will be positioned on the moveable examination table. Straps and bolsters may be used to help you stay still and maintain the correct position during imaging. Small devices that contain coils capable of sending and receiving radio waves may be placed around or adjacent to the area of the body being studied. For an MRI of the head, a device is positioned around the head.

If a contrast material will be used in the MRI exam, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm. A saline solution may be used. The solution will drip through the IV to prevent blockage of the IV line until the contrast material is injected. When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. Your intravenous line will be removed. MRI exams generally include multiple runs (sequences), some of which may last several minutes. The entire examination is usually completed within 45 minutes.

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