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Defining an MRI Scan

Along with other types of medical diagnostic methods, MRI’s are extremely effective at detecting certain issues in the body. Developed in 1971 by Paul C. Lauterbur, MRI scans are unique in that they require no radiation to see internal images in the body.


The MRI is a large, circular machine in which a patient lies in to be scanned. Using strong oscillating magnetic fields, a resonance frequency causes water molecules inside the body to create a contrasting image of the body. This happens because the water molecules emit a radio frequency signal, which is analyzed by the receiving coil. This information can provide extremely detailed images of internal structures, especially the spine, which helps doctors diagnose back pain or underlying tumors. 

MRI Uses

MRI images are very detailed and clear, which allows doctors to carefully deconstruct issues with internal structures. MRI is especially useful for detecting issues with:


MRI is considered the best tool for diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis. An MRI scan can detect damage to the brain or spinal cord that corresponds with MS symptoms.


MRI is particularly good at detecting tumors around the body, specifically brain, bone, soft tissue or spinal cord tumors. This can be combined with X-rays or CT scans for a complete diagnosis.


MRI can also be used for diagnosing various injuries, such as torn ligaments, shoulder injuries, or back pain.

In general, MRI is useful for finding masses in soft tissue around the body, finding issues of the brain or spine, or recognizing problems with tendons or ligaments.

Areas Scanned

Because MRI’s use no radiation, they are completely safe to use on virtually all parts of the body. However, like any diagnostic imaging, there’s precautions that must be taken. Areas typically scanned include:

  • The Brain
  • Joints
  • Areas of the Spine
  • Shoulders
  • Elbows, Wrists & Hands
  • Hips & Pelvis
  • Knees, Ankles, Feet

Benefits & Risks


MRI’s are very safe, because they do not use any radiation to create diagnostic images. MRI is an invaluable tool when it comes to early detection of tumors or lesions within sensitive soft tissue in the body as well. This includes cancer, heart disease, vascular disease and muscle or bone anomalies.


While an MRI exam poses almost no risk to the average patient, some safety guidelines are in place as precautions. Patients with medical devices implanted inside them cannot have an MRI scan, because of the strong magnetic field present. The contrast injection material can also sometimes cause an allergic reaction, which can be discussed with the technician for alternative methods.


MRI is a powerful tool health care professionals have for combating some of the most serious issues. The early detection that MRI offers saves thousands of lives a year in the battle against cancer, and those living with back pain can have their issue properly evaluated and treated. For more information on MRI, or to book a private Calgary or Edmonton MRI scan today, contact Canada Diagnostic Centres today!