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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive technology that uses magnetic and radio waves to create detailed 3D images of organs, tissue, and the skeletal system to help diagnose disease and monitor treatment. MRIs can produce clear pictures of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

MRIs can be used to help diagnose multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, stroke, aneurysm, eye and inner ear disorders, tumors, and brain trauma. An MRI of the heart can help determine the functionality of chambers, the thickness of walls, and the extent of damage after a heart attack. An MRI of bones and joints might detect abnormalities, infections, and tumors.

Powerful magnets used during a scan stimulate protons in the body. The realignment of water molecules in the body with the magnetic field generate signals that produce cross-sectional images.

Functional MRI

A functional MRI maps brain activity to determine which areas engage during critical tasks. Functional MRIs can be used prior to surgery and to assess damage from conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Patients might be asked to perform a series of small tasks, while the scan monitors the path of blood flow.

Some types of MRIs require that patients get contrast dye injected into a vein prior to the procedure so that doctors can more clearly see structures inside the body.

What Happens During an MRI?

During an MRI, patients are placed on a motorized table that moves inside a long tube. Patients must remain still so that the images aren’t blurry. The scan could last 15 minutes to about an hour. You can speak with a technician over a microphone the entire time. The procedure is painless but can be a bit noisy. Earplugs or music can be made available.

Patients must notify their doctors of any implants they have that may include metal, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, or cochlear implants. MRIs are not recommended for women in the first trimester of pregnancy. If a patient anticipates feeling claustrophobic during the scan, they should speak to their doctors about preparations they can take to be comfortable during the scan. An open MRI machine might also be an option.

A radiologist will interpret the images and discuss the findings with your doctor. If treatment is needed, your UTHealth Neurosciences team will create a comprehensive care plan.

Tests and Treatments


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At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.


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