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How To Read a MRI Scan

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How To Read a MRI Scan

Preliminary Information

Reading an MRI Scan report can be a little tricky if you aren’t well acquainted with the terminologies and presentations. The most frequently used MRI Scans tend to be the T1-weighted and T2-weighted ones as well as those that encompass FLAIR.  We have listed out some important facts in order to help you with this task-

T1-weighted sequence showcases the best representation of structures that are mostly made of fat. These sequences show the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in black, grey matter in grey, white matter as white, bones as black and adipose tissues as white. These sequences are more accurate in examining issues such as the normal anatomy of the brain.
The T2-weighted sequence shows structures that consist of a high amount of water. The CSF is represented as white, grey matter as grey, white matter is a darker shade of grey, bones are shown as black and the adipose tissue is shown to be white. This sequence is mostly used to show pathological changes in neural tissues.
Another important aspect to note while considering MRI Scans is the orientation of the scans. In the case of coronal scans, whatever is seen on the left is actually seen in reality on the patient’s right and vice versa. In the case of axial scans, you see the image as if you are seeing the patient through their feet while facing opposite directions.
For brain MRI scans, it is important to follow a systematic approach in order to understand things accurately. The MRI analysis should ideally start from the ventricles then go to the subcortical structures and then the brain lobes. This is subsequently followed by analyzing the cerebral cortex and then finally the meninges and the skull.

How To Read a MRI Scan

Steps Involved In Reading MRI Scans

We have compiled a list of easy steps you can follow to get an accurate idea of what your MRI scans are meant to tell you.

Verify all details 

It is important that the details that are mentioned in the scan such as the patient’s name, date of birth, contact details of the hospital, etc. are correctly mentioned, along with the image details in terms of dates and types. Make sure that the scan is of the recent image of the correct patient and verify by looking at previous cross-sectional images if available.

Imaging Software 

As a lay person, install imaging software. Most MRI scans come with an inbuilt MRI installation in the discs. Put your disc in your laptop or computer and load the study. MRI viewers in the standard DICOM format are readily available online for download, making the viewing process simpler, accessible, and easy. Make sure to load the image well and look specifically at the contrast settings in order to make accurate analysis and deductions. The idea is to focus on non-symmetrical patches that can help you identify issues such as spinal disc herniations. For the knee area, make sure that you specifically look at inconsistencies between the two knees for issues like ligament tear and meniscus tear.

Check the weighted images carefully 

It is important to make sure that you readily and accurately assess the weighted images which can be T1, T2, or FLAIR. Go through your scans and identify the different planes available – axial, coronal, and sagittal. Analyze whether there are any abnormal MRI signals. Go through the anatomical areas of focus and make sure that none of it is missed or appears abnormal. Make sure that you compare both sides of the image if possible in order to reveal abnormal signaling. You must also make sure to analyze the shape, size, intensity, and location of the signal of the weighted images for an accurate reading.

 Comparisons of different MRI sequences  

It is important that you compare the images of MRI sequences in order to differentiate between pathology. Comparing fat-sensitive images to those scans which are water-sensitive can help in detecting ischemia and inflammation across different pathologies. Engaging in post-contrast enhancement for vascular pathology and pathological-vascular tissues is also useful and provides great advantages. Also understanding what different images are used while looking at the brain etc. will go a long way in helping you decipher between most differentials.

Comparisons across different Modalities 

It is also advisable that you compare the scans from MRIs with other imaging modalities such as ultrasound, CT scans, and plain film scans in order to get a clearer picture of what you’re going for. It will also help you provide answers to a number of questions that these aforementioned modalities do not cater to. You will realize that MRIs tend to be comprehensive in their analysis across body organs and functions. By comparing different modalities you will be able to answer the following questions with ease – Can you view the pathology across other imaging modalities and can plain films be used meticulously when we have to assess musculoskeletal diseases? All these questions can be easily answered through these simple comparisons.

Comparison against previous scans 

Since pathological detection is a holistic exercise, it becomes important to refer to the previous MRI images and scans and compare them to the new ones in order to understand the growth and development of the anomalies.

Clinical context for accurate diagnosis   

In order to be able to accurately ascertain a radiological and pathological diagnosis, it is important to place the findings you make after analyzing your MRI scans and put them in the context of clinical presentation. Make sure that you approach a specialist for the same. For this it is important that your doctor find answers to the following questions – Are the symptoms the doctor sees post-analysis acute or chronic in nature? What is the intensity of the growth and anomalies, does it require immediate help or treatment? Do the anomalies present in the MRI scan that has been imaged, correlates to the symptoms that have been presented? The doctor needs to be able to answer these questions after making an accurate analysis of the MRI scan.

We hope that we were able to provide you with all the information you need in order to read your MRI scans and reports objectively and accurately. Always remember that MRI scans take around 20-60 minutes depending on which body part is being scanned and analyzed. Make sure that your scans and images are clear for analysis and radiology. Adequate information about the reading process and analysis will make the reading procedure easy and less daunting!

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Hi, I am Alka Tiwari, Founder & Patient Care Executive at MRIChandigarh.com. Helping you get the diagnostics scans services like MRI, CT Scan, UltraSound & PET Scan, etc at the best price. At MRIChandigarh's blog, I will be writing to create awareness and to educate you about how and where to get diagnostic scans done in Chandigarh at the best price with best-in-class services.
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