MRI Scan For Abdominal Issues: What, Why, When, and How?
The abdominal scan on your prescription, your doctor wrote, is an abdominal MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and you want to know –
- What is an MRI scan for abdominal issues,
- How an MRI scan works
- Why MRI gets more preference for medical use,
- When you need this MRI scan, and
- how accurate an MRI scan can be?
Thy is your opportunity to discover these all and stay prepared for your scan! Would you like to grasp it?
What Is An MRI Scan?
An MRI scan is the imaging study that extracts images of your internal body parts, and herein; your abdominal organs and tissues via a strong magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves.
MRI is a noninvasive process, painless, and requires no radiation. Yes. Safer than a traditional X-ray or CT (Computed Tomography) scan that involves radiation exposure and may corollary lead to kidney damage, heart disease, cancers, etc.
MRIs can be contrast-enhanced. Here you receive a contrast dye orally or intravenously into your body to ensure image clarity and highlight the soft tissues so that the healthcare providers can spot differences between a soft tissue and an abnormal growth in your abdomen, if any!
Your MRI scan can also be without a contrast! However, it depends on your healthcare providers. So, look out to them and discuss it further!
What Happens During An MRI Scan?
During an MRI scan in a healthcare center, be it a radiology center, hospital, or clinic, a radiology team comes into work. Once you reach the center and report to the reception, you get a gown to wear for the scan. Meanwhile, they quickly study your medical case history and make the lab free and ready.
When you enter the lab room, you can see the big scanner machine standing right away, looking like a vanilla donut, and a moveable bed attached to it that will slide you into the semi-circular space. The radiologist will ask you to lie over there and close your eyes.
But, to keep you aware from before, the inside of the machine may make you feel claustrophobic if you have such tendencies. It is because of the very little space you get inside and also; the annoying, loud, cranky noise. So, you do have the facility to ask for eye masks, ear cuffs, or blankets to divert your mind and stay easy, calm, and relaxed during the scan. You can also get sedatives, but only with your doctor’s recommendation.
While you are inside the scanner, the magnets attached to the machine walls generate a magnetic field and trigger the cellular protons to align with it. When they do so and move out of position, the radio waves take the stage. They send signals to the computer, screening the abdominal image.
If your images lack clarity and your radiologist can spot the disease, you will get to come out once, receive the contrast administration, and again back into the machine to get more precise snaps. This entire process typically takes around 30 minutes. But for complex cases, it may take more. Once you get done, you may get going with your own routine.
Why Do Doctors Prefer and Use MRI Scan For Abdominal Issues?
Do you know the main reasons why a doctor tends to prefer and use an MRI scan for abdominal issues?
When it comes to MRI scans, there are absolutely no risks; I must say!
Whether you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have some kind of allergy, have chronic heart disease, kidney disease, or cancer, or are below 18 years, an MRI scan can cause you no harm. It is simply because there’s no radiation.
Disease Diagnosis & Diagnostic Accuracy
Although not 100% accurate, an MRI scan holds greater diagnostic accuracy for abdominal diseases than an X-ray, CT, ultrasound, or PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan.
Doctors perform an MRI to – 1. Abnormal masses, 2. Blood flow to the abdominal organs and tissues, 3. Shape, size, and other characteristics of your abdominal organs, and 4. Condition of your blood vessels carrying blood to these organs.
Perhaps, an MRI scan detects a wide range of abdominal issues, such as –
- Abscess in your abdominal cavity,
- Enlarged liver, spleen, gallbladder, stomach, or other abdominal organs,
- Infections in your kidney, bladder, liver, stomach, intestine, etc.,
- Tumors, benign or malignant/cancerous,
- Kidney and bladder stones,
- Kidney swelling due to urine backflow, called hydronephrosis,
- Fatty liver disease and liver cirrhosis,
- Bile duct problems,
- Blood clots and enlarged lymph nodes,
- Narrowing or blockage in the blood vessels that run through your abdomen, and so forth!
The sensitivity and specificity of MRI are likely to be higher than other diagnostic modalities in case you have any of the aforementioned diseases.
Biopsy Guidance & Eliminating Unnecessary Biopsies
Well, doctors also prefer an MRI for two contradictory reasons. What are they?
One is to guide the use of needles in a cancer biopsy, i.e., an invasive process to collect cancerous tissue samples for testing.
The second is to eliminate the requirement of an invasive cancer biopsy with the diagnostic accuracy of an MRI scan in measuring the amount of calcification. According to records, an MRI scan wipes out 27% of the unnecessary biopsies in breast cancer patients.
Doctors also prefer and use MRI scans for monitoring treatments of abdominal disease. Whether you have a tiny kidney stone, fatty liver disease, or gastric cancer, an MRI scan can accurately show how well your body responds to the treatment and also, trace recurrence.
This is typically part of a routine checkup related to your treatment. Your doctor may ask for one MRI scan, two or even three in a year, depending on your health condition and treatment process.
When Do Doctors Recommend An MRI scan For Abdominal Issues?
Your doctor may recommend an MRI scan if you show symptoms of abdominal issues, such as –
- Severe abdominal pain that keeps you awake all night these days,
- Severe cramps soon after you eat,
- Blood in your stool or urine,
- Persistent fever, nausea, and throwing up,
- Skin turning yellowish,
- Swelling in your abdomen,
- Unintentional and extreme weight loss,
- Difficulty swallowing food,
- Difficulty passing stool (what we call constipation),
- Prolonged diarrhea,
- Frequent heartburn,
- Feeling full despite eating little and a myriad more.
How Accurate Are MRI Scans For Screening Abdominal Abnormalities?
Doctors consider an MRI scan the gold-standard diagnostic modality to decipher and demonstrate diseases of the soft tissues and those a CT or X-ray cannot help reveal. Why?
According to the National Institute of Health, India, an MRI correctly characterizes about 80% of abdominal abnormalities, while an ultrasound and a CT scan can assess 52% and 59% of them, respectively.
An MRI is about –
- 86% to 94% sensitive and 88% to 92% specific in diagnosing diverticulitis, i.e., inflammation in your digestive tract,
- 100% sensitive and 73% specific in evaluating appendicitis or inflammation of your appendix,
- 92% accurate in identifying a 1mm colorectal cancer,
- 89.1% accurate in detecting pancreatitis or inflammation of your pancreas,
- 81% sensitivity and 94% specificity in measuring fatty liver (also called hepatic steatosis),
- 82% sensitive in identifying kidney stones,
- 71.4% to 88% accurate in diagnosing gastric cancers,
- 82% sensitive in screening hydronephrosis,
- 70% sensitive and 98% specific in diagnosing a benign liver tumor called focal nodular hyperplasia,
- 90% to 95% accurate in locating gallstones, and so forth!
So, it means you can certainly rely on an MRI scan for abdominal issues! No doubt, this scan offers you an effective and efficient diagnosis and disease management.
If you have a metallic implant in your body, be it dental metallic fillings, a cochlear ear implant, or a pacemaker, an MRI scan shall not stand applicable to you. It is because the metallic presence in front of the magnet may – 1. Throw false signals and tamper with the diagnostic report, and 2. Cause internal or external injury to the patient and those in the lab room. Therein, your doctor may suggest a different scan.
Refer to what your doctors say, and always stay in touch with them!
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