MRI Chest Scans

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as an MRI, is one of the most powerful tools that can be used in medicine to get a full and in-depth look inside the body. An MRI of the chest uses a combination of radio waves, a strong magnetic field, and a computer to come together and create very detailed pictures of the chest. This allows doctors to look for unusual injuries, masses, and is a powerful tool for looking for cancerous masses and seeing the level and degree of spread. Chest MRIs are also a very common way to look at the current functionality of the heart and how blood flow works.

While MRIs are extremely useful tools, it’s important for individual patients to make sure they keep their doctors abreast of any recent health issues, surgeries, and even things such as allergies. If a female patient is pregnant, that is information that she should include, as well. While the magnetic field used in an MRI generally is not considered to be harmful in any way, it does have a tendency to cause many medical devices to bring back errant data or outright malfunction. Obviously anytime magnetic fields are used, you need to inform medical professionals of any metal that is in your body for any reason.

Patients expecting an MRI should stay on regular medications unless the doctors say otherwise and they need to wear loose comfortable clothing with no jewelry or other metal pieces/works on them. These are just some of the basics that you should know before going into an MRI.

Why Are MRIs Used?

MRIs are popular when looking at the chest because they are non-invasive and provide detailed internal information that can be used to evaluate a patient’s overall organ and internal health, find a variety of potential health issues, and give the information needed in order to help formulate an effective treatment.

Because of the non-invasive aspect of the MRI and how much information it can give about the heart and the rest of the cardiovascular system, it is a very popular tool doctors can use.

Just a short list of what MRI imaging can help find includes:

– Abnormal masses (cancerous and otherwise)
– Tumor growth
– Lung cancer
– Tissue damage/stress
– Size, extent, and spread of tumors or abnormal masses
– Blood flow into and from various parts of the heart
– Chest bone issues
– Soft tissue injuries and more!

The truth is this is just a small sample of the many different chest related medical issues that an MRI can reveal. There’s a reason this particular treatment is so often used in hospitals and has become a standard part of the medical industry. There’s even a very special type of MRI that is technically called an MRA, which stands for magnetic resonance angiography and can be an extraordinarily helpful way to really check out specific areas of the chest cavity like the vessels, arteries, veins, and this is the type of MRI that is often used to locate aneurysms or torn inner artery lining. These can be easy things to miss with other tests, but potentially fatal for the patient.

Proper Preparation Is Important

Don’t be surprised if a doctor asks you to wear a gown during the exam, although it is fully possible that you will be allowed to wear your own clothing if you prefer. The key here is that any clothing worn for an MRI needs to be loose-fitting and absent of any metal since the MRI is a magnetic process.

Depending on the type of MRI you’re going to be getting, what other tests might be on the docket, and other considerations your doctor can fill you in on, you will get various guidelines regarding what you can eat or drink before an MRI. Most of the time you will be able to just eat or drink normally but there might be exceptions that you have to keep in mind. It is up to your doctor or medical professional to give you this information and up to the patient to then follow it.

Contrasting Material Tests

Depending on what doctors are looking for, there will be certain types of MRI exams where the patient will need to receive an injection that “lights up” the pictures. This allows a contrast that will make it much easier for doctors to look for certain irregularities in your system and attempt to figure out what might be wrong. In this case you will talk to a specialist of some type whether a nurse, a radiologist, or a technician. You need to make sure to talk about any allergies, find out what dietary issues you may have, and answer a variety of questions that might seem random but are all based on preventing any serious potential issues before they happen.

The contrast material that is used normally is gadolinium based. Gadolinium is a metal that can be used in most patients, especially those with iodine contrast allergy that would make the use of iodine impossible. There are very very few examples of a patient showing any side effects to gadolinium, which is why it is so popular, but there are times when this can interact in a negative way with medication, making proper screening all the more important.

Don’t Ignore Recent Health History

The doctors can only do so much: they need as much information as possible to do their jobs well and to do them right. Whether this refers to serious health problems you know about, recent surgeries (and recent can even mean in the past few years), any medical conditions you currently know about, and more. Recent history can tell a lot, and the more information you give your medical professionals, the better the service they can provide for you.

Pregnancy is another common issue. While an MRI has never been shown to have ill effects on pregnant women or their unborn babies, this is due in part because of careful timing, precautions, and careful practices put into effect since the early 1980s to cut back on any potential issues. Prevention is the key here, and understanding the patient’s full health status helps doctors to figure out what the ideal treatment options actually are.

Small Children & Infants

Because a crucial part of any MRI is the fact that the patient doesn’t move, most of the time some degree of sedation or even anesthesia is needed in order to make sure infant and/or young children stay still long enough to make sure a proper test can be taken. Most facilities offering MRIs also have the ability to provide conscious sedation or moderate sedation. This is an important part of many processes and it is absolutely crucial that you follow any rules given prior to the treatment.

Many times depending on what you need, various pediatric medical facilities will have child specialists who can help guide you through this process for the best results. Often times this even includes taking away the fear or worry of younger kids by showing them dummy scanners, playing some noises they might hear during the exam, talking to them, and really specializing in helping to get rid of anxiety. This helps the process for everyone involved and that means better treatment and results.

There are many common everyday items that need to be left at home, and just a short list includes:

– Jewelry & watches
– Credit cards
– Hearing aids
– Hair pins, bracelets, metal zippers
– Removable dental work
– Glasses, pocket knives, pens
– Body piercings of any kind

Most metal implants are going to be safe when it comes to an MRI, but there are a few times when that will not be the case, which is why full disclosure is absolutely crucial. The certain types that are especially important to disclose to doctors prior to the MRI include:
– The cochlear ear implant
– Certain metal clips that are used to treat brain aneurysms
– Certain types of metal coils put in to repair blood vessels
– Virtually any pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator

If you have any of these then you need to make sure that you don’t get a conventional MRI as these are items the process can damage, leading to serious injury or worse to patients who don’t disclose them. There are also many specific items or implants that are okay to have an MRI with, but only if they have been implanted in the patient for six weeks or more. This might sound unusual but it is actually pretty common, but even in those situations you still want to disclose it.

A short list includes some:

– Artificial limbs
– Metallic joint prostheses
– Artificial heart valves
– Drug infusion ports (implanted)
– Nerve stimulators (implanted)
– Metal plates, screws, pins, staples, or more

While these can often be worked around, this is one of those things that thoroughly qualifies as “timing is everything” and can be worked around given proper preparation. In addition to all of these devices and medical procedures that have already been listed, it’s important for patients with any type of metal objects in their body to make sure doctors know. This could be from an old injury, hunting accident, or veterans of the armed services often have bullet fragments or shrapnel that was safer to keep in the body than remove.

Often an x-ray will be taken just to be on the safe side of things and see if any of those leftover pieces of metal would cause any issues or if the MRI can go forward as originally planned. This is one of those situations where it is always best to be on the safe side of things. Once it is confirmed that they won’t be a problem the MRI can go forward or if there is any concern at all alternative options will be explored to make sure the patient is always in good hands and in the best possible position for recovery.