Sunday, March 17, 2013
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI), or magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to visualize internal structures of the body in detail. MRI makes use of the property of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to image nuclei of atoms inside the body.
An MRI scanner is a device in which the patient lies within a large, powerful magnet where the magnetic field is used to align the magnetization of some atomic nuclei in the body, and radio frequency magnetic fields are applied to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization. This causes the nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner—and this information is recorded to construct an image of the scanned area of the body. Magnetic field gradients cause nuclei at different locations to precess at different speeds, which allows spatial information to be recovered using Fourier analysis of the measured signal. By using gradients in different directions, 2D images or 3D volumes can be obtained in any arbitrary orientation.
MRI provides good contrast between the different soft tissues of the body, which makes it especially useful in imaging the brain, muscles, the heart, and cancers compared with other medical imaging techniques such ascomputed tomography (CT) or X-rays. Unlike CT scans or traditional X-rays, MRI does not use ionizing radiation.
Information about the origin of the signal in 3D space can be learned by applying additional magnetic fields during the scan. These additional magnetic fields can be used to only generate detectable signal from specific locations in the body (spatial excitation) and/or to make magnetization at different spatial locations precess at different frequencies, which enables k-space encoding of spatial information. The 3D images obtained in MRI can be rotated along arbitrary orientations and manipulated by the doctor to be better able to detect tiny changes of structures within the body. These fields, generated by passing electric currents through gradient coils, make the magnetic field strength vary depending on the position within the magnet. Because this makes the frequency of the released radio signal also dependent on its origin in a predictable manner, the distribution of protons in the body can be mathematically recovered from the signal, typically by the use of the inverse Fourier transform.
Protons in different tissues return to their equilibrium state at different relaxation rates. Different tissue variables, including spin density, T1 and T2 relaxation times, and flow and spectral shifts can be used to construct images. By changing the settings on the scanner, this effect is used to create contrast between different types of body tissue or between other properties, as in fMRI and diffusion MRI.
MRI is used to image every part of the body, and is particularly useful for tissues with many hydrogen nuclei and little density contrast, such as the brain, muscle, connective tissue and most tumors.