Evaluating MRI Scan Results

First, the difficulty with the results of an MRI scan, as with many other diagnostic studies, is that the “abnormality” that shows up on the MRI scan may not actually be the cause of back pain. Numerous clinical studies have shown that approximately 30% of individuals in their thirties and forties have a lumbar disc herniation on their MRI scan, although they do not have any back pain.
Therefore, an MRI scan cannot be interpreted on its own. Everything seen on an MRI needs to be well-correlated to the individual patient’s situation, including:
-Symptoms (such as the duration, location, and severity of pain)
-Any neurological deficits on their physical examination
Another important consideration with MRI scans is the timing of when the scan is done. The only time an MRI scan is needed immediately is when a patient has either:
-Bowel or bladder incontinence
-Progressive weakness in the legs due to nerve damage.
Fortunately, both of the above situations are rare.

How to Prepare for an MRI?

You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 4 – 6 hours before the scan. Tell your doctor if you are afraid of close spaces (have claustrophobia). You may be given a medicine to help you feel sleepy and less anxious, or your doctor may suggest an “open” MRI, in which the machine is not as close to the body.
Before the test, tell your health care provider if you have:
-Artificial heart valves
-Brain aneurysm clips
-Heart defibrillator or pacemaker

-Inner ear (cochlear) implants
-Kidney disease or dialysis (you may not be able to receive contrast)
-Recently placed artificial joints
-Vascular stents
-Worked with sheet metal in the past
(you may need tests to check for metal pieces in your eyes)
Because the MRI contains strong magnets, metal objects are not allowed into the room with the MRI scanner:
-Items such as jewelry, watches, credit cards, and hearing aids can be damaged.
-Pens, pocketknives, and eyeglasses may fly across the room.
-Pins, hairpins, metal zippers, and similar metallic items can distort the images.
-Removable dental work should be taken out just before the scan.

MRI Shows Brain Cell Loss in Parkinson’s

For the first time, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report, brain imaging has been able to show in living patients the progressive damage Parkinson’s disease causes to two small structures deep in the brain.
The researchers found that people with early stage PD had lost cells in the brain area known as the substantia nigra. In people with more advanced disease, scans showed that cells in the basal forebrain had also been lost.
Scans showed that the volume of the part of the brain called the substantia nigra was smaller in people with early stage PD than in people without the disease, meaning that cells had died in that brain region.
Substantia nigra volume was about the same in people with early stages of PD as in those whose PD was rated as moderate.
Basal forebrain volume was smaller in people with moderate stage of PD than in healthy people or those with early PD.
Basal forebrain volume was about the same in healthy people as in people with early PD.
Until very recently, loss of cells in inner brain structures — the hallmark of PD — could only be reliably observed by studying the brain after death. The new research represents an important tool for seeing and measuring the size of these parts of the brain in people living with PD.

Using MRI and Sugar to better Detect Cancer

Using sugar to detect cancer with an MRI scan – researchers from UCL (University College London) developed a technique, called glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer (glucoCEST), which can help detect cancer.
Before undergoing an MRI scan, the scientists administered an injection of sugar into laboratory mice. The MRI device was sensitized to recognize glucose.
Tumors consume much more sugar than normal tissue, so they come up as bright images on the scan.
Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, who was involved in the study, said “We have developed a new state-of-the-art imaging technique to visualize and map the location of tumors that will hopefully enable us to assess the efficacy of novel cancer therapies.”

How the MRI was Discovered

Dr. Raymond Damadian, a physician and scientist, toiled for years trying to produce a machine that could noninvasively scan the body with the use of magnets. Along with some graduate students, he constructed a superconducting magnet and fashioned a coil of antenna wires. Since no one wanted to be the first one in this contraption, Damadian volunteered to be the first patient.
When he climbed in, however, nothing happened. Damadian was looking at years wasted on a failed invention, but one of his colleagues bravely suggested that he might be too big for the machine. A svelte graduate student volunteered to give it a try, and on July 3, 1977, the first MRI exam was performed on a human being. It took almost five hours to produce one image, and that original machine, named the “Indomitable,” is now owned by the Smithsonian Institution.
In just a few decades, the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners has grown tremendously. Doctors may order MRI scans to help diagnose multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, torn ligaments, tendonitis, cancer and strokes, to name just a few. An MRI scan is the best way to see inside the human body without cutting it open.

When are MRI scans used?

An MRI scan can be used as an extremely accurate method of disease detection throughout the body. In the head, trauma to the brain can be seen as bleeding or swelling. Other abnormalities often found include brain aneurysms, stroke, tumors of the brain, as well as tumors or inflammation of the spine.
Neurosurgeons use an MRI scan not only in defining brain anatomy but in evaluating the integrity of the spinal cord after trauma. It is also used when considering problems associated with the vertebrae or inter-vertebral discs of the spine. An MRI scan can evaluate the structure of the heart and aorta, where it can detect aneurysms or tears.
It provides valuable information on glands and organs within the abdomen, and accurate information about the structure of the joints, soft tissues, and bones of the body. Often, surgery can be deferred or more accurately directed after knowing the results of an MRI scan.

MRI’s Help Fight High Risk of Cancer

For women with a high risk of breast cancer because of genetic mutations or family history, yearly MRI scans in addition to mammograms and breast exams may save lives, a new study finds.
The study, the first to measure survival in a large number of high-risk women receiving MRI’s, found that after six years of follow-up, 93 percent of mutation carriers with cancer were still alive, compared with 74 percent alive at five years in earlier studies. In the new study, all of the women at high risk because of family history were still alive after six years.
Experts began several years ago to recommend yearly MRI scans in addition to mammograms for high-risk women, because MRI is better at finding tumors. Mammograms still detect some cancers that MRI’s miss, so high-risk women are generally advised to have both tests. But until now, researchers did not know whether the combined testing saved lives.

Can MRI works as an Antidepressant?

A startling new paper from Tehran claims Antidepressant effects of magnetic resonance imaging-based stimulation on major depressive disorder.
Yes, this study says that having an MRI scan has a powerful antidepressant effect.

They took 51 depressed patients, and gave them all either an MRI scan or a placebo sham scan. The sham was a “scan” in a decommissioned scanner. The magnet was off but they played recorded scannerish sounds to make it believable. Patients were blinded to group.
They found that people in the scanner group improved much more than those in the sham group over two weeks.

So is it true? One can’t see any obvious flaws in the design. Assuming that the authors of these studies are right when they say that “patients could not distinguish the difference between the actual and sham MRI scan”, i.e. assuming that the blind was truly blind, then the methodology was sound. So we can say that the debate is still on debate for years: That’s really a fact.

MRI may help Depression

Researchers continue to explore whether magnetic fields produced by magnetic resonance imaging devices and others improve mood in those who suffer from depressive disorders.
When a researcher asks a volunteer to slide head-first into the open eye of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, the expectation is that the device’s magnetic field will penetrate the skull to produce a faithful picture of the brain without changing its behavior. A new study suggests, however, that MRI machines do, in fact, manipulate brain activity—and they change the brain in a way that helps treat depression. In other words, MRIs may be unintentional antidepressants.
Hadi Rokni-Yazdi of Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran and his colleagues organized 51 volunteers with major depressive disorder into three 17-person groups. Volunteers in the first two groups received one of two kinds of MRI scan. Those in the third group received phony MRI scans: The magnet was never switched on, but a recording of the sound generated by a genuine session was played to convince the volunteers they had been scanned. All the subjects were taking common antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and all had their level of depression assessed by standard scales before and after the procedure.