The main advantages of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are:
They do not involve exposure to radiation, so they can be safely used in people who may be vulnerable to the effects of radiation, such as pregnant women and babies.
They are particularly useful for showing soft tissue structures, such as ligaments and cartilage, and organs such as the brain, heart and eyes.
They can provide information about how the blood moves through certain organs and blood vessels, allowing problems with blood circulation, such as blockages, to be identified.
The main disadvantages of MRI scans are:
MRI scanners are very expensive. A single scanner can cost over £1 million. This means that the number of scanners a primary care trust (PCT) can afford to fund is limited. Therefore, if your condition is non-urgent, you may have to wait several months to have an MRI scan.
The combination of being put in an enclosed space and the loud noises that are made by the magnets can make some people feel claustrophobic while they are having a MRI scan.
MRI scanners can be affected by movement, making them unsuitable for investigating problems such as mouth tumours because coughing or swallowing can make the images that are produced less clear.
Tissue: Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.
Brain: The brain controls thought, memory and emotion. It sends messages to the body controlling movement, speech and senses.
Blood vessels: Blood vessels are the tubes in which blood travels to and from parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are veins, arteries and capillaries.
Blood: Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Heart: The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood around the body.
Inflammation: Inflammation is the body's response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
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