Vehicle accidents occur frequently around the country. Accident injuries range from mild inflictions to very serious ones. When checked into a hospital or doctor’s office, doctors will most likely provide you with an imaging test to detect and diagnose an injury. One of the devices used for high-level imaging is an MRI.
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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI is a technique that is used by technicians to provide detailed images of the organs and structures within the human body. This non-invasive technology is offered for a wide range of purposes, including helping a doctor detect, diagnose, monitor and treat injured patients without the use of harmful radiation present in other devices like an x-ray or CAT scan. An MRI produces pictures of the brain, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments and tendons that are very vivid and clear. Radio waves cause the atoms in a patient’s body to produce small signals, which in turn, are used to establish cross-sectional or 3-D MRI images. Since these displays have proven to be detailed than those created by x-rays and CAT scans, an MRI scan is much more costly than other procedures.
An MRI is the image modality doctors suggest when a patient has sustained an injury to the brain. It is also recommended when thoroughly examining issues in the knees and in the shoulders dealt by car accidents. One of the most common injuries that doctors diagnose, when patients have been involved in a collision, is called dashboard knee.
Dashboard knee: This type of injury occurs when a person’s knee crashes into the dashboard of a motor vehicle in an accident. It can even occur when the person involved was wearing a seatbelt; whether it is inflicted is a matter of luck. As a result, the knee cap (medically known as the patella) that is connected to the quadriceps and tibia, is damaged by the force of the injury. If the cap is fractured or torn, patients will most likely experience an intense pain and lots of swelling around the area. An MRI is recommended because the scan results can reveal the status of knee ligaments, the patella, and the entire structure of the knee in great detail, even after time has passed.
There isn’t usually much preparation for an MRI scan on the patient’s behalf. On the day of a scheduled scan, patients are not ordered to limit their diet or consume large amounts of liquids. Patients should be able to eat, drink, and take medication the way they normally would on a regular day. However, when patients arrive at the hospital, they will be asked to fill out a questionnaire about their prior medical history. Medical staff will then evaluate a patient’s answers to ensure that they will be able to undergo the procedure safely. Once cleared, patients will be asked to remove any of the following metal objects from their body and place them in a locker:
- Hearing aids
- Jewelry (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings)
In some cases, patients may be asked to wear a gown. But in the event that patients are not, they will be instructed to wear clothes that do not have metal zippers, buttons or fasteners. Since the procedure is painless, children can enter the machine. However, if they have trouble being still for extended periods of time, they may be given an anesthetic or sedative to help them in doing so.
During the procedure, a patient will be asked to lie on a motorized bed that will eventually enter and exit a short cylinder. Depending on the part of the body being scanned, a person may enter either head first or feet first. If the head or the chest is being examined, a frame used to create a better quality image may be placed over the body part before entering. Technicians will use a computer to manage the MRI scanner in a separate room from the patient and the magnetic field. If patients have any questions, they are able to communicate with technicians through an intercom.
While entering the machine, patients will be asked to stay as still as possible until they are told to relax. The whole procedure may be as long as 90 minutes or be as short as 15 minutes, depending on the number of scans taken and the body part being evaluated. After the scan, patients will be able to resume normal activities immediately. Since the results will need to be thoroughly looked over by radiologists and other specialists, it may take a while before the results are discussed with patients.
Risks of MRIs
Although patients who undergo an MRI may not be exposed to ionizing radiation like other imaging devices, there are still risks that are associated with this procedure. Since this machine contains an extremely strong magnetic field, there are some risks to patients who meet certain conditions. For example, patients with implants containing iron, several steels, and other magnetizable objects such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, loop recorders, insulin pumps, deep brain stimulators, cochlear implants, endoscopy capsules, etc. should be prohibited from entering the machine. The magnetic field attached to an MRI machine has proven to be strong enough to chuck a wheelchair across the room.
Patients with claustrophobia, an extreme fear of confined places, may also struggle with handling the long scan times inside the machine that the procedure entails. In this case, a technician may provide an anesthetic or have a patient engage in a coping mechanism like listening to music or watching a movie. If there is access to the new, open MRI machines that don’t confine patients into a small space, then this will be used in place of the traditional machine. Other risks linked to contrast agents, nerve stimulation, and pregnancy should be taken into consideration.