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Different Types of MRIs and What They Look For

May 18, 2021

Different Types of MRIs and What They Look ForIf you’ve recently suffered a sports injury or car accident injury then your doctor may want to utilize diagnostic imaging tools to get a better picture of what kind of damage your body has experienced. An MRI scan is one of the most common types of diagnostic imaging tools that takes highly detailed images of your bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, and other soft tissues. Unlike an X-ray or CT scan, an MRI scan does not use any radiation and it provides the most detailed, clear images so your doctor can assess an injury or identify an illness or other issue. Here’s what to know about the different types of MRI scans, what they look for, and why your doctor may recommend a specific kind.

What’s the Difference Between an Open and Closed MRI?

When you think of an MRI scan, you may have an idea of what it looks like from watching a movie or tv show where a character gets an MRI. The traditional MRI scan involves the patient lying on a table that is inserted into what looks like a giant tube. An MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, uses giant magnets and radio waves, and the roundness of the machine provides a look at your internal structures from every angle.

The traditional MRI scan is a closed MRI, which means you are inside the tube structure. However, medical and technological advancements have made it possible for an open MRI option. In some cases, people are uncomfortable with the traditional MRI experience due to claustrophobia or body size. An open MRI is an alternate option that will also provide your doctor with detailed, cross-sectional images of your injury or issue.

What Is an MRI with Contrast?

In some instances, your doctor may say that you need an MRI with contrast, which involves using a dye that will highlight certain internal structures to provide better visuals. The dye can be injected through an IV or taken orally. The dye in an MRI with contrast will also cling to unknown masses like tumors to help them become more identifiable. You may or may not need an MRI with contrast depending on what exactly your doctor wants to see.

Three Types of MRIs

There are many types of MRI scans that are used for specific purposes and to help support a diagnosis. Here are three examples of an MRI scan and what they do:

Functional MRI

A functional MRI scans the brain to look for any abnormalities and assess how well everything is functioning, including how the blood is flowing to the brain. This type of MRI scan shows how the brain is activated when it lights up as you speak, have certain thoughts, or performs certain tasks. Your doctor may recommend a functional MRI to assess a potential brain injury, measure a brain tumor, or monitor degenerative disease that affects the brain like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Musculoskeletal MRI

If you’ve suffered an injury or have an illness that affects your musculoskeletal system then your doctor may recommend a musculoskeletal MRI. A complex injury from a car accident or sports injury may affect multiple parts of the body; for example, a broken bone may also involve damaged muscle, ligaments, or other supportive tissue. A musculoskeletal MRI is helpful for providing your doctor with detailed, highly specific looks at disc degeneration, bone fractures, joint dislocations, and other types of soft tissue damage.

Cardiac MRI

A cardiac MRI scan provides your doctor with a view of your cardiovascular system and how everything is functioning. If you’ve recently suffered from a heart attack then a cardiac MRI can help detect any potential damage, as well as identify what parts of the heart may not be pumping blood effectively. A cardiac MRI can also look at your blood vessels and identify any blockages or damage. Inflammation around your heart, tumors, and heart valve issues can all be assessed by a cardiac MRI scan so your doctor can provide you with the most accurate diagnosis.

There are also other types of MRI scans that can help detect and measure tumors in other parts of the body, screen for cancers like breast cancer, and monitor any growth before, during, and after treatment. At AICA Orthopedics, we provide each patient with comprehensive care that includes access to state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools like MRI scans in-house. Schedule an appointment with a chiropractor in College Park and find out what type of MRI scan may be most appropriate for your injury or issue.


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