MRI Pros And Cons

With many things in life there comes pros and cons. It’s always the risk against the reward. Nothing comes free. So let’s have a look at the pros and cons of having MRI scans.


The Pros

There are many benefits to having an MRI scan. An MRI scan is painless. It is radiation-free making it safe for children and pregnant women. It is capable of showing unique information that other tests cannot. MRIs can provide very detailed diagnostic pictures of your tissue and organs.


The Cons

Magnetic hazards are one of the most dangerous risks of having an MRI scan. MRI scanners can attract metal objects with high amounts of magnetism such as jewelry or piercings. It can even pull any metal implants that you may have in your body such as metal hips or aneurysm clips which can cause internal hemorrhage or ruptured organs. MRIs can sometimes give false positives when in reality there is no illness or injury. This can lead to unnecessary treatment such as surgery or incorrect prescriptions.

While pregnancy is radiation-free, it can still cause risks in the first 3 months of pregnancy due to the slight warming of the body during MRI scans. It can also pose risks related to sedation or use of anaesthesia. Most children below six years of age will need to be given a light anaesthetic before having an MRI scan. This is due to the fact that young children are unable to stay still for extended periods of time to allow the MRI to take accurate pictures.


The History

The evolution the MRI scanner began in 1973 when Paul Lauterbur published the first nuclear magnetic resonance image. Peter Mansfield discovered a way to drastically speed up the scans to a fraction of the original time so that the scans would take seconds and not hours using a technique he called echo-planar imaging or EPI. Not only was his technique faster, but it would also produce images much clearer than those generated with Lauterbur’s technique. In 1976, Michael Goldsmith and Larry Minkoff became the first people to generate a body scan of a human being. In 2003 Paul Lauterbur and Sir Peter Mansfield won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The award was for “their discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging”.


Economic Impact

The major barrier with the use of MRI scanners is the high price. MRI scanners have an average price of one million dollars. The lifetime maintenance cost for MRIs would be about the same amount as the purchase price.


MRI or CT?

Both machines have their pros and cons. One of the biggest disadvantages of a CT scan is the risk of radiation-induced cancer. In the year 2007, studies showed that 0.4% of cancers in the United States were due to CTs performed in the past. A study conducted in Australia showed that one in every 1800 CT scans was linked to cancer. MRIs have no radiation but take longer to scan patients, often around 20-40 minutes.


MRI Scan Procedure

The person enters the scanner and is then asked to lay still. An oscillating magnetic field is generated to produce the first image of the body. The excited atoms generate a radio signal that a receiving coil absorbs in order to produce the images of the tissue and organs. The strength of the magnetic field is often around 1.5 teslas. In recent years, new developments in MRI technologies show that it is possible to get clear images with magnetic fields as weak as 10 milliteslas.

Whether you choose an MRI or CT scan, just appreciate the medical advancements that will always be here to help diagnose any problems we might have.