How is a Chest MRI Otherwise Known

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 17, 2013

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Quick Bites

  • A chest MRI is also known as nuclear magnetic resonance.
  • An MRI exam causes no pain and uses no radiation.
  • It is used to diagnose abnormal growths in the chest.
  • It can clarify findings from previous x-rays or CT scans.

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).

Uses of MRI

MR imaging of the chest is performed to:

  • Assess abnormal masses, including cancer of the lungs or other tissues, which either cannot be assessed adequately with other imaging modalities (typically CT) or which are particularly well-suited to MR imaging.
  • Determine tumour size, extent, and the degree of spread to adjacent structures.
  • Assess the anatomy and function of the heart and its component structures (valves, etc.).
  • Assess myocardial perfusion (blood flow to the heart) and myocardial infarct (scar in the heart muscle due to prior obstruction of blood flow).


chest MRI

  • Determine blood flow dynamics in the vessels and heart chambers.
  • Display lymph nodes and blood vessels, including vascular and lymphatic malformations of the chest.
  • Assess disorders of the chest bones (vertebrae, ribs and sternum) and chest wall soft tissue (muscles and fat).
  • Assess for pericardial (thin sac around the heart) disease.
  • Characterize mediastinal or pleural lesions seen by other imaging modalities, such as chest x-ray or CT.


Functioning of MRI Procedure

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.

chest MRI

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.

Considerations of MRI Procedure

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.

Disadvantages of MRI include:


  • High cost
  • Long duration of the scan
  • Sensitivity to movement

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.

Image Courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Understanding Chest MRI.


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