By: Radhika Bajaj
You’ve probably heard about this thing called “Magnetic Resonance Imaging” (MRI) but never known what it was. Possibly, you’ve seen an Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine in movies and thought of it as that large, scary tube a person enters for medical reasons. That’s how I have seen one as till today’s date! A Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine is used to produce detailed three-dimensional images in the body. The machine consists of a table on which the patient lies. This table then slides into a large tube surrounded with magnets. Magnetic Resonance Imaging is used to diagnose and monitor diseases. The main way the technology functions is by using magnets and radio waves.
How It Works
As you may have heard, most of the body consists of water (H2O). Furthermore, these water molecules consist of hydrogen nuclei which are equivalent to a single proton. These protons act like magnets. Firstly, a magnetic field is generated which causes these protons to align their spins in a direction (north or south). Consequently, the patient is exposed to a radio frequency with a different magnetic field. Protons then absorb energy and change their spin. When the radio frequency field is turned off, protons begin to realign as in the beginning. When realigning, they let off some energy. This information is then received and an image is created. Doctors are able to differentiate between various tissues based on their magnetic properties (the spin of the proton).
Its Uses and Problems in the Real World
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is really useful for doctors as it can help diagnose a wide range of diseases. This technology produces more detailed scans than others like X rays and CT scans. It can be used to detect tumors, strokes, bone injuries, and many more. Above all, it doesn’t even hurt! Many people have raised the question about whether Magnetic Resonance Imaging is actually safe. Especially during pregnancy. Although the procedure doesn’t emit the harmful radiation as in X-rays or CT scan, it does involve a strong magnetic field. The only people who could be affected, are ones with implants such as pace-makers. However, the machines have been modified so that they do not contain any serious harm. In fact, in one study, pregnant mothers were exposed to magnetic resonance and there was no harm seen in their children.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a very promising technology as it can help detect almost any disease from in your brain to your kidneys. Moreover, the harms associated with the procedure have alleviated over time. Hopefully, now that you have learnt about how Magnetic Resonance Imaging works, it doesn’t seem as scary as they show in movies (at least not for me)!