Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head is a non-invasive test which produces the detailed images of brain and the brain stem. An MRI machine can create the images using a magnetic field and radio waves. This test is also known as a brain MRI or a cranial MRI.
An MRI scan is totally different from a CT scan or an X-ray in that it does not use the radiation to produce the images. An MRI scan combines images to create a 3-D picture of internal structures, so it is more effective than the other scans by detecting the abnormalities in small structures of the brain such as pituitary gland and the brain stem. Sometimes a contrast agent, or dye, can be given through an intravenous (IV) line to better visualize certain structures or abnormalities.
Why do I need a head MRI?
A head MRI is a very useful tool to detect for a number of brain conditions, which are as follows:
- Aneurysms, or bulging in the blood vessels of the brain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord injuries
- Hydrocephalus, a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain cavities
- Hormonal disorders, such as acromegaly and cushing’s syndrome
- Hemorrhage, or bleeding
- Problems with development or structure (such as a chiari malformation)
- Blood vessel issues
- An issue due to a previous head injury
- Changes in thinking or behavior
- Blurry vision
- Chronic headaches
These are the symptoms which are happen due to a brain issue, where this MRI scan can help to detect. Another type of MRI called magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), which can better examines the blood vessels in the brain.
Procedure for a head MRI:
During the exam, it’s important to stay still to obtain the clearest images. Children who have difficulty staying still may need sedation, administered either orally or through an IV line. Sedation can be helpful for adults who has claustrophobic.
You will lie down on a table that slides into the MRI machine. These table slides are send through a large magnet which are shaped like a tube. You may have a plastic coil placed around your head. After the table slides into the machine, a technician will take several pictures of your brain, each of which will take a few minutes. There will be a microphone in the machine that allows you to communicate with staff.
The test normally takes 30 to 60 minutes. You may receive a contrast solution, usually gadolinium, through an IV to allow the MRI machine to see certain parts of your brain more easily, particularly your blood vessels. The MRI scanner makes more loud banging noises during the procedure. You may be offered earplugs to block the MRI machine’s noises, or you may listen to music during the test.
There are no risks associated with an MRI itself. While the procedure is doing there is a very slight chance that you will have an allergic reaction to a contrast solution. Tell the medical staff if you have decreased kidney function. It may not be safe to use contrast solution if this is the case.