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What is an MRI and how does it work?

Magnetic resonance scanning or imaging (MRI) is a method of looking inside the body without using surgery, harmful dyes or x-rays. The MR scanner uses magnetism, and radio waves to produce remarkably clear pictures of the human anatomy. When you are referred by your physician for an MRI, he or she is utilizing the most advanced method of diagnostic imaging available in the world today. An MRI provides your physician with much information about your condition. If you are fortunate enough to be referred for a scan in a MRI machine, it will be a quick, comfortable, and safe experience.

Although MRI is used for medical diagnosis, it utilizes a physics phenomenon discovered in the 1930s called nuclear magnetic resonance in which magnetic fields and radio waves, both harmless, cause atoms to give off tiny radio signals. In the 1940s, research physicists found that the length of time these response signals are emitted after an atom is stimulated by radio waves varies widely depending on the substance being examined. This amazing phenomenon also holds true for biological tissue. It wasn't until 1970, however, that Raymond Damadian, a medical doctor and research scientist, discovered the basis for using magnetic resonance as a tool for medical diagnosis when he found that kinds of animal tissue emit response signals that vary in length and, furthermore, that cancerous tissue emitted response signals that last much longer than non-cancerous tissue. He would subsequently find that the response times of other kinds of diseased tissue, normally called "relaxation times," also vary dramatically.

There are two kinds of relaxation times that can be detected, and they are known as T1 and T2. When a patient is being scanned with magnetic resonance, the response signals emitted by the atoms in the patient's body are picked up by a very sensitive antenna and forwarded to a computer for processing. When the processing of these signals is complete, a two-dimensional, cross-sectional pattern is created on a monochrome monitor that looks very much like what you would expect if you took a black-and-white TV picture of that particular cross section. This "image" shows more detail than any images generated by X-rays-CAT scans also use X-rays, by the way-but the beauty of MRI is that it doesn't use harmful X-rays. Although this picture looks like a photo, it is not a photo.  The information provided to a Radiologist is more useful than what would be revealed in a photo. A typical image is typically made up of 65,000 tiny rectangles that are either white, black, or one of a wide range of gray tone values that fall somewhere between black and white. To a trained MRI radiologist, these gray tones speak volumes.

How do I prepare myself for an MRI scan?

Preparing for an MRI or MRA is relatively easy.  If you are having an MRI scan you can follow your normal daily routine. You may eat and take your usual medication if this applies to you.  You are encouraged to use the bathroom prior to the scan. You will be asked to remove all metallic items from your person, such as watches, jewelry, hairpins, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. Do not take any credit or bank cards with you as the scanner will erase the information recorded on the magnetic strip. An area will be provided for safekeeping of valuables.

Important Considerations:  You should not have an MRI scan if you are, or suspect you may be, pregnant. It is very important to inform the doctor or the nurse prior to the scan. If you have any of the following metal implants or objects: Aneurysm clips, artificial heart valve, bullets, cardiac pacemaker, eye/orbital prosthesis, hip, or knee prosthesis, insulin pump implant, intracranial bypass graft clips, middle or inner ear prosthesis, shrapnel, sternal wire, sutures, tantalum mesh, transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation device. Your doctor will decide if you can be safely scanned. If you have ever been a metal worker, it is important that you inform the doctor of this, as you may be required to have your eyes X-rayed before having the MRI scan. This information will be asked before the scan, and you will be asked to sign a form stating you are aware of the need to provide this information prior to the scan for your own safety.

How is Upright MRI different from regular MRI's?

The revolutionary design of the Upright™ MRI allows patients to simply walk in and be scanned. The Upright™ MRI allows all parts of the body, particularly the spine, and joints, to be imaged in the weight bearing state. The system is equipped with our unique MRI-compatible motorized patient handling system that will move the patient into the magnet and place the anatomy of interest into the center of the magnet gap. It also can rotate the vertically-oriented patient into a horizontal position.  The patient can be scanned lying down as in conventional MRI scanning.

Distinctive Benefits Include:

What if I'm claustrophobic?

Then Upright Imaging of Westchester is the place for you! One of the unique benefits to the Upright MRI is that there is nothing in front of your face or body; it’s completely open. You can sit, stand, or recline without and obstructed view of the TV that’s in front of you.  This makes for a pleasant experience when you need an MRI. The Upright MRI is the only true Open MRI.

Is an Upright MRI covered by my health insurance?

An Upright MRI is covered by most insurance companies as a regular MRI. There are no special pre-authorizations needed for the Upright MRI, please reference our participating insurance companies. View Participating Insurance Companies


What should I bring with me when I come for my MRI appointment?

You must have the following items on the day of your exam:


How do I make an MRI appointment?

One of our professional and courtesy staff members will be more than happy to assist you. You can reach us at (914) 969-1818, (914) 969-0828 (Fax).


A 57-year old woman presented with pain of one year's duration following failed back surgery performed in 2001. The patient continued to experience persistent low back-pain, accompanied by sensations of coldness and numbness in both thighs and legs. Read Full Story , More Case Studies


Door-to-Door Directions to Our Office

To schedule an appointment call (914) 969-1818. For directions to our office click here
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