A chest MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan is also known as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). It is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the chest, or thoracic, area. It does not use radiation (x-rays).
MR imaging of the chest is performed to:
Unlike conventional x-ray examinations and computed tomography (CT) scans, MRI does not depend on ionizing radiation. Instead, while in the magnet, radio waves redirect the axes of spinning protons, which are the nuclei of hydrogen atoms.
The magnetic field is produced by passing an electric current through wire coils in most MRI units. Other coils, located in the machine and in some cases, placed around the part of the body being imaged, send and receive radio waves, producing signals that are detected by the coils.
A computer then processes the signals and generates a series of images, each of which shows a thin slice of the body. The images can then be studied from different angles by the interpreting radiologist.
Frequently, the differentiation of abnormal (diseased) tissue from normal tissues is better with MRI than with other imaging modalities such as x-ray, CT and ultrasound.
Currently, MRI is not considered a valuable tool for spotting or monitoring slight changes in lung tissue, since the lungs contain mostly air and are difficult to image.
An MRI exam causes no pain and uses no radiation. To date, no side effects from the magnetic fields and radio waves have been reported.
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