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magnetic resonance imaging
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Mri Imaging – How It Works? Very Simple
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Mri Imaging – How it Works? Very Simple

I have to say that the first time I heard about magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and understand how it works, I just said “Man, that’s genius!!!”. From my daily experience, I came to the conclusion that people have difficulty to understand the basics of this technology and have questions like: “Is this safe?” our “Does it hurts?”. So I’m gonna try to explain in a very way the MRI technology, in a way that even my grandma understands. I hope she reads this!

So basically the MRI scan is a giant magnet that looks like a giant donut, and usually this magnet has a field strength of 1.5 Tesla or 3 Tesla. For better understanding with 1.5 T you have a field that is 30000 times bigger than the earth's magnetic field (big number, I know).

In MRI imaging we search for the water molecules (that have protons) in our body and, as we all know, water is a major component in the human body (70%). Water molecules, like other molecules, have spin. You might see the spin as a molecule spinning like a spinning top, creating a magnetic field.

Normally these tinny magnetic fields are randomly organized and their sum is zero, but when a huge magnetic field, with a certain direction applied, the spin of the water molecules rearrange along or against the magnetic field direction. Well, typically is then applied a… let’s say, a pulse that turns the spins perpendicular to the main field. They then return/relax to their original position under the influence of the main field, generating a signal that is read by some coils.

Because different tissues in the body have different amounts of water, the spins have different relaxation time; this allow to distinguishing the tissues and coloring them to build the MRI image. The spatial encoding is made using field gradients, but I intend to keep it simple.

MRI exams allows high-resolution images of the body and functional MRI imaging, e.g. with some brain MRI exams it’s possible to analyze which parts of the brain are involved in a given task, and to visualize brain connections by observing water movements in the neurons.

To conclude, in an MRI exam you don’t have to inject noting (only if it’s needed a contrast agent), it doesn’t hurt and it’s not proven harm the human body. I have to tell you that the MRI scan makes a lot of noise, but usually, they give you some headphones to enjoy some great music (really!).

I hope I make the explanation MRI imaging very simple, and if you have some questions just leave some comments. My apologies to all English natives and MRI experts :)


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