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An MRI is a safe and non-invasive scan that assists in establishing a medical diagnosis for you and your doctor. Its ability to produce a cross section of high-quality images of your body’s internal organs and structures makes it one of the most versatile imaging techniques available.
If you need an MRI, it’s likely because you and your doctor believe it’s the best next step. They are often ordered when more detail is needed based on results of other imaging exams like X-ray or ultrasound, or when the cause of your symptoms is unclear during a physical exam.
If this sounds familiar and you are new to having an MRI, you may be feeling a little nervous. To help ease some of those nerves, let’s explore how an MRI works, what to expect during your exam, and some of the differences between MRI scanners.
If you’ve never seen an MRI machine before, a good way to describe it is to think of a long tube. It’s comprised of a large, circular, and very powerful magnet with an open space in the middle. During your exam, you will lie on a cushioned platform, and the part of your body being scanned will be placed within the middle of the magnet.
MRIs can be loud, so for comfort, you will be provided with headphones or ear plugs to reduce the noise. You will also be given an emergency call bell that you can press at any point to stop the exam if you start to feel too uncomfortable.
When the exam begins, the body part being imaged is slowly moved into the middle of the magnet. You will be asked to hold very still, as movement results in the blurring of images. The magnet then begins to work its magic, using radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce high-quality images of your body. Depending on what is being imaged, you may be asked to hold your breath for up to 30 seconds.
The duration of the exam varies, but it usually takes between 25-40 minutes per body part. And, because it’s a magnet, it’s important to note that you will be screened beforehand for any metal objects in, or on, your body.
Now that you have an idea of how an MRI works and what to expect, let’s explore some of the differences between them. Specifically, let’s look at the differences between closed, open, and wide bore systems.
A closed-bore scanner is the most traditional MRI scanner. Its bore space measures 60 cm, which can be uncomfortable for larger patients, or those who suffer from claustrophobia. Measured in teslas (T), these scanners typically have magnets between 1T and 3T in strength.
An open-bore scanner offers a more comfortable patient experience. The bore space is open on two to three sides, which can help alleviate feelings of claustrophobia or patient-size concerns. The magnet strength in these scanners is typically between .2T and .7T, which depending on the body part you are imaging, may or may not be sufficient. Scan times with open-bore systems may be longer with reduced resolution.
Wide-bore scanners bring qualities from both closed- and open-bore scanners. Their bore space measures 70 cm (about two feet) giving patients some extra room to feel more comfortable without sacrificing image quality. The strength of these scanners is typically between 1.5T and 3T.
Mayfair’s advanced MRI services in Calgary include two magnets from GE Healthcare: The Optima MR450w 1.5T and the Signa Architect 3T. Both of these wide-bore systems are designed to maximize comfort and deliver uncompromised imaging capability. In Regina and Saskatoon, we allso use the Optima MR450w 1.5T. The features of this MRI technology include:
In Alberta, MRI exams are available in hospitals and are covered under the province’s Health Care Insurance Plan, but Mayfair offers the same studies as private pay exams, which can significantly reduce the time you wait to get the imaging done. In Saskatchewan, we offer MRIs as a publicly funded, community-based service under contract with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and as a private pay exam. Private MRI services in Saskatchewan are provided in accordance with and under the legislation of the Province of Saskatchewan.
Whether public or private, an MRI must be requested by a health care practitioner who will provide a requisition. Mayfair Diagnostics will schedule your exam and provide you with detailed information to prepare for it. Once your exam is complete, your images will be reviewed by one of our specialized radiologists who will compile a report and send it to your doctor.
Mayfair Diagnostics is owned and operated by over 50 radiologists who are sub-specialty trained, which guarantees an expert opinion of your imaging.
Mayfair Diagnostics offers MRI imaging as a private pay service at our Mayfair Place location in Calgary, and as both public and private pay exams at our Saskatoon and Regina locations in Saskatchewan. For more information, please visit our services page or call our toll-free number 1-866-611-2665.
Atlantis Worldwide (2015) “Closed Bore, Open MRI, Wide Bore, Don’t be fooled again!” atlantisworldwide.com. Accessed April 26, 2021.
GE Healthcare (2019) “MRI Bore Sizes and Benefits.” www.gehealthcare.com. Accessed April 26, 2021.
University of California, San Francisco Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging (2021) “Prepare for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.” radiology.ucsf.edu. Accessed April 26, 2021.