What Happens During an MRI With Contrast?


Quick Answer

During an MRI with contrast, a health care professional injects a dye containing gadolinium into the patient's bloodstream, explains Mayfield Clinic. Due to gadolinium's magnetic properties, the dye attracts certain tissues while it travels through the bloodstream, resulting in those areas of the body appearing enhanced in the diagnostic images.

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What Happens During an MRI With Contrast?
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Full Answer

After the patient receives the contrast injection, a trained technologist assists the patient in lying down on a padded table, according to Providence Imaging Center. The table then slides through a circular magnetic opening, stopping when the appropriate area of the body is within the view of the portion of the MRI machine responsible for taking the photographs. Once the technologist turns on the machine, the patient hears noises as the machine takes the pictures. An intercom system makes it possible for the patient to communicate with the technologist from within the scanner.

MRI scanners produce highly detailed pictures of the body's soft tissues using radio waves, a magnetic field and computerized technology, states Mayfield Clinic. When a patient enters into the magnetic field, the hydrogen atoms in her body travel toward the magnet, and then a radio wave pushes them away from the magnet. The body contains many of these hydrogen atoms due to its high water content. A sensor in the MRI machine monitors how long it takes the atoms to realign toward the magnet, which provides information about the water content in different bodily tissues. The computer is able to use this information to produce the images.

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