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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):




Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a method of creating images of the inside of opaque organs in living organisms as well as detecting the amount of bound water in geological structures. It is primarily used to visualise pathological or other physiological alterations of living tissues as well as to estimate the permability of rock to hydrocarbons.
First, the spins of the atomic nuclei of the tissue molecules are aligned in a powerful magnetic field. Then, radio frequency pulses are applied in a plane perpendicular to the magnetic field lines so as to cause some of the
hydrogen nuclei to change alignment. After this, the radio frequency is turned off and the nuclei go back to their original configuration but, as they do so, they release radio frequency energy which can be picked up by coils wrapped around the patient. These signals are recorded and the resulting data are processed by a computer to generate an image of the tissue. Thus, the examined tissue can be seen with its quite detailed anatomical features. In clinical practice, MRI is used to distinguish pathologic tissue such as a brain tumor from normal tissue.
The technique most frequently relies on the relaxation properties of magnetically-excited hydrogen nuclei in water. The sample is briefly exposed to a burst of radiofrequency energy, which in the presence of a magnetic field, puts the nuclei in an elevated energy state. As the molecules undergo their normal, microscopic tumbling, they shed this energy to their surroundings, in a process referred to as "relaxation." Molecules free to tumble more rapidly relax more rapidly. Differences in relaxation rates are the basis of MRI images--for example, the water molecules in blood are free to tumble more rapidly, and hence, relax at a different rate than water molecules in other tissues. A contrast agent is sometimes injected in the sample to augment these differences and improve sensitivity.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used instead of computed tomography (CT) in situations where organs or soft tissue are being studied, because bones do not obscure the images of organs and soft tissues, as they do in CT.
One of the advantages of an MRI scan is that, according to current medical knowledge, it is harmless to the patient. It only utilizes strong magnetic fields and non-ionizing radiation in the radio frequency range. Compare this to CT scans and traditional X-rays which involve doses of ionizing radiation.
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, neurostimulators, bone-growth stimulators, certain intrauterine contraceptive devices, or any other type of iron-based metal implants.

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