What does an MRI scan show?
Using an MRI scanner, it is possible to make pictures of almost all the tissue in the body.
The tissue that has the least hydrogen atoms (such as bones) turns out dark, while the tissue that has many hydrogen atoms (such as fatty tissue) looks much brighter.
By changing the timing of the radiowave pulses it is possible to gain information about the different types of tissues that are present.
An MRI scan is also able to provide clear pictures of parts of the body that are surrounded by bone tissue, so the technique is useful when examining the brain and spinal cord.
Because the MRI scan gives very detailed pictures it is the best technique when it comes to finding tumours (benign or malignant abnormal growths) in the brain. If a tumour is present the scan can also be used to find out if it has spread into nearby brain tissue.
The technique also allows us to focus on other details in the brain. For example, it makes it possible to see the strands of abnormal tissue that occur if someone has multiple sclerosis and it is possible to see changes occurring when there is bleeding in the brain, or find out if the brain tissue has suffered lack of oxygen after a stroke.
The MRI scan is also able to show both the heart and the large blood vessels in the surrounding tissue. This makes it possible to detect heart defects that have been building up since birth, as well as changes in the thickness of the muscles around the heart following a heart attack. The method can also be used to examine the joints, spine and sometimes the soft parts of your body such as the liver, kidneys and spleen.