Archive for May, 2013

May 31, 2013

MRIs: Sights, Sounds and Sensations

MRI (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a way for radiologists to view the body using a combination of magnets and radiofrequency waves. MRI is a particularly great technology for showing anatomy and for studying the brain, joints, abdomen, back, spine and heart, among other organs. While an MRI requires no exposure to radiation, the strong magnetic force creates special considerations. Individuals with most pacemakers and some other implanted electronic devices cannot enter the MRI room. Likewise, metal of any kind cannot be brought into the MRI suite as metal objects can become deadly missiles!

When getting an MRI, patients can expect to experience a few unique sights, sounds and sensations. Most MRI studies can be completed in about 20-40 minutes.

Sights and Sounds

What patients will see: a large machine (that’s the magnet!) with round hole and a table going through it. The table will be moved into the MRI machine. For the few who find smaller spaces uncomfortable, closing their eyes and visualizing open spaces usually solves the issue. Patients must remain still as image sequences last from a few to several minutes, and motion can lead to blurred images.

The images are made with radiofrequency pulses which create a loud series of noises, often like a loud knocking, for which ear protection is needed and provided.


There are a few mild or passing physical sensations that may be experienced in the magnet.

Metal on or in the body may create sensations when in the magnet. Even small amounts of metal, as for instance in certain tattoo inks, may lead to local warming. Metal fragments in the body from an old injury may also cause local heating. While most of the time these effects are minimal, communication before you have your study and during is most important! If it feels wrong, let the technologist know immediately! Many surgically placed metal objects are fine, but fully discuss these with the technologist for safety.

If your exam requires the injection of contrast – a clear IV medication that allows better definition of the inner organs – patients can feel a cool sensation in the arm during the injection. As with any medication, side effects and rarely reactions can occur. Your technologist will help explain these.

Because the magnet of an MRI is always on, it is important to remember that all things magnetic can be drawn to it. What does this mean to the average person? Don’t have your credit cards or other metal objects in your pocket when you walk in the room! All patients are thoroughly screened for safety but you can help by knowing these basics of the MRI.

May 29, 2013

Take a Stand for Good Health

conference room stretching by synergy programs

Solution? Prevention:

As radiologists, we spend far too much time every day reading back injuries, so many of which are preventable. One simple solution: Take a break from sitting down so much!

It can seem nearly impossible to convert some sedentary jobs into standing ones based on office policies and equipment availabilities. In order to manage a situation that IS “unavoidable” there are some ways to fight back. As explained in a recent article in the LA Times, getting up and moving around on regular intervals can do wonders.

There are also workarounds for the seating issue: “I’ve been known to take a wrench to work and remove the arms of my chair so I could sit in lotus position at my desk. Luckily, I’ve had bosses who were either very kindly tolerant… or not too observant,” says a cubicle worker named Rachel, with a wink and a grin.

“Sitting is the new smoking.”

The list of painful results from a lifestyle of consistent sitting have lead to the expression “sitting is the new smoking.” That is to say, it’s too common and most people who do it somehow consider themselves the exception to the rule when they are, in fact, demonstrating the rule.

In a TEDx talk by Pack Matthews, Sitting Is the New Smoking (but You’ve Got Options), we learned a simple trick for measuring the impact of sitting on your life. On the ten point scale demonstrated in the video, can you raise and lower yourself to sitting cross-legged using your legs alone? Kudos to one of the radiologists here who scored a 10 in heels (ahem, show-off!) and another colleague who struggled is deeply motivated to correct her situation.


Armed with this knowledge about your legs, spine and general health, we hope you’ll rethink your sitting to standing ratio and enjoy better health. Give yourself a little test (but you don’t have to do it in heels) and make yourself a goal of ten. Happy standing to you!

May 23, 2013

CT: A Better Way to Scan for Lung Cancer

In an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine on May 22nd, the National Lung Screening Trial had good news to report: Through the use of low-dose computed tomography, doctors were able to recognize lung cancer earlier and more often than through traditional chest x-ray.

The initial phases of the study, published in 2011, showed a 20% reduction in mortality among patients diagnosed with lung cancer. This is credited to the fact that twice as many early stage cancers were discovered using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) than chest x-ray (CXR).

This most recent finding of the study specifically shows that LDCT discovers lung cancers more often than CXR. This is very good news for those at high risk for lung cancer – earlier and improved detection means expediting the process of healing and hopefully recovery.

The American Association for Thoracic Surgery recommends annual LDCT for specific high-risk groups, specifically North Americans meeting any of the following:

  • aged 55 to 79 years old with a history of 30 pack-years* of smoking

  • long-term lung cancer survivors up through the age of 79

  • those with a 20 pack-year history, starting at age 50 if there is an “additional cumulative risk of developing cancer of 5% or greater over the following 5 years.”

Doctor’s note: Please don’t smoke. Avoiding cancer is even better than discovering it early.


Source: X-ray(Chest)Cancer.jpg: unknown
derivative work: Anassagora (talk)
Copyright: Public Domain

*A “pack-year” number is derived from multiplying the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years smoked – so 30 pack years could be smoking 1 pack a day for 30 years, or 2 packs a day for 15 years.

May 21, 2013

MRI: “Closed” is actually “open-ended”