MRI interpretation
Application of MRI

Key points

  • The successful application of MRI depends on the clinical question in mind, and the body part to be imaged
  • With some applications of MRI, drugs may be given to help reduce movement and improve image quality

MRI is often incorrectly considered a superior imaging modality to other imaging techniques. In many circumstances, it is inferior to CT, ultrasound, or even plain X-ray. The successful application of MRI depends on the clinical question in mind, and the body part to be imaged.

MRI provides exquisite images of body parts that do not move, such as the brain, and anatomical structures that can be kept still, such as parts of the musculoskeletal system.

Each set of images produced takes several minutes to obtain. Therefore, MRI is not suitable for patient who are unable or unwilling to remain motionless.

MRI brain

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MRI brain

  • MRI images of the brain beautifully demonstrate grey and white matter structures
  • Note that on this image the grey matter of the cerebral cortex is brighter than the white matter

MRI knee

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MRI knee

  • MRI allows detailed analysis of musculoskeletal body parts such as the knee
  • Bone marrow is clearly visible – in the femur and tibia in this case
  • Bone cortex is less clearly visible on MRI and is often better seen with CT scans or plain X-rays

MRI is also used to investigate parts of the body which move involuntarily, such as the bowels and heart.

MRI small bowel

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MRI small bowel

  • MRI is increasingly used in imaging the gastrointestinal tract
  • Antimuscarinic drugs may be given prior to imaging to prevent movement artifact from bowel peristalsis

Cardiac MRI

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Cardiac MRI

  • Even though the heart moves, the use of 'ECG-gating' allows MRI scanners to produce exquisite images of cardiac muscles, providing information about anatomy, function and even viability of heart muscle.
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