When Do Doctors Use an MRI for a Diagnosis?

Doctor talking to the patient

When it comes to treating injuries and chronic conditions, doctors need to accurately diagnose the cause of your pain first. A diagnosis usually includes a thorough examination of your symptoms and a review of your medical history. Many doctors also use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm a diagnosis before beginning treatment.

An MRI machine is a large partial tube that contains several large magnets. The patient lies still in the tube while the magnets spin and temporarily realign the hydrogen atoms in the body. The radio waves produced by these atoms make signals that can be captured and rendered into 3-D images of your internal structure.

When is an MRI necessary for a diagnosis?

In many cases, a doctor can determine the cause of your pain through physical examination and a review of your symptoms. However, the cause is not always clear. Symptoms for multiple conditions can be similar, which means a more in-depth look in your body is necessary to identify the cause.

Historically, a biopsy provides an inside view of the body. While a biopsy is still necessary in some cases, it has largely been replaced by MRI scans and other forms of imaging like X-rays.

Compared to X-rays, MRIs are more comprehensive and offer a detailed view of your soft tissue as well as bone structures. There are several other benefits of getting an MRI as well, including:

  • No radiation
  • Usually does not require a contrasting agent
  • When used, contrasting agents are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction
  • No incisions or needles are necessary

Are MRIs safe?

MRIs are generally a safe procedure, but there are a few items your doctor will consider before recommending an MRI scan, including:

  • Since MRIs use large magnets, any metal objects can be turned into projectiles. If you have metal implants or a pacemaker, an MRI is not safe for you.
  • MRIs take place in a confined space, so people with claustrophobia may experience some discomfort. At clinics like the Florida Spine and Joint Institute, MRI specialists strive to create a comfortable and relaxing experience for all patients, especially those with claustrophobic tendencies.
  • MRI scans may not be safe for pregnant women.

Visit the iRISE Spine and Joint Institute for an MRI scan

If you need treatment for a chronic condition or an injury, your doctor may ask you to get an MRI scan. At the iRISE Spine and Joint Institute, we use state-of-the-art equipment to produce high-quality images for an accurate diagnosis. Contact our team today to learn more about MRI scans or to schedule an initial appointment.