What is a Brain MRI?
The Brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a painless, non-invasive radiology exam which is performed to examine the area of the head or brain. The visuals created by the MRI machine helps doctors identify tumors, infection, inflammation, optic or auditory nerve dysfunction, multiple sclerosis and assess parts of the brain controlling thought, speech, movement or sensation.
The MRI scan is different in comparison to the X-ray and CT scan because it does not use radiation for producing images. A combination of images in a MRI scan create a 3D picture of the patient’s internal structures making it easier to detect abnormalities in small structures such as the brainstem and the pituitary gland. However, to identify certain abnormalities, sometimes, a dye or contrast agent is given to the patient intravenously.
Who should get a Brain MRI?
A Brain MRI is usually ordered by doctors if you have these indications:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Stroke or mini stroke
- Tumors and cancer
- Seizures, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s
- Lacunar infarction
- Hearing loss
- Vertigo (dizziness)
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Pituitary tumors or adenomas
A Brain MRI is also helpful in identifying if you have sustained any damage from a head injury or stroke. The doctor can suggest an MRI for the following symptoms as well:
- Blurred vision
- Changed behavioral pattern
- Chronic headache
What is the procedure for a Brain MRI?
It is very important to stay still during the MRI exam. The patient undergoing an MRI has to lie down still on a table that slides towards the MRI machine. The table will slide through a large magnetic scanner. Once the table is inside the scanner, the MRI technician will take pictures of the patient’s brain. The MRI machine will also have a microphone present inside making it easier for the patient to communicate with the staff. During the procedure, the MRI machine tends to make loud banging noises. The patient will be offered ear plugs to block out the noise.
The complete test takes 30 – 60 minutes. Some patients are also given a contrast solution, which helps the test reflect certain parts of the patient’s brain easily, especially the blood vessels.
What kind of MRI should I opt for? Brain MRI with contrast or without contrast?
The doctor will decide if the patient requires contrast. If required, then the contrast will either be given through an IV or orally. The procedure for the MRI remains the same, with or without the contrast.
Is there radiation involved?
No. An MRI is a painless radiology technique that has the advantages of avoiding radiation exposure.
Risks of the procedure?
Because radiation is not used, there is no risk of exposure to radiation during an MRI procedure. However, due to the use of the strong magnet, MRI cannot be performed on patients with:
- Implanted pacemakers
- Intracranial aneurysm clips
- Cochlear implants
- Certain prosthetic devices
- Implanted drug infusion pumps
- Bone-growth stimulators
- Certain intrauterine contraceptive devices; or
- Any other type of iron-based metal implants.
MRI is also contraindicated in the presence of internal metallic objects such as bullets or shrapnel, as well as surgical clips, pins, plates, screws, metal sutures, or wire mesh.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician. Due to the potential for a harmful increase in the temperature of the amniotic fluid, MRI is not advised for pregnant patients.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, contrast dye, iodine, or shellfish should notify the radiologist or technologist. MRI contrast may also have an effect on other conditions such as allergies, asthma, anemia, hypotension (low blood pressure), and sickle cell disease.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
When will I receive my results?
Once completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How do I prepare? Do I need to fast?
Please refer to the simple preparation guidelines or consult with your doctor or radiology center where you are being treated. Do not forget to bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.