An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses a powerful magnet to take photos inside the body while a computer records changes in your body’s magnetic field. This allows doctors to diagnose a disease, illness, injury, or condition. Computer images from MRI can create a 3-D image of the inside of your body. MRI is also much safer than CT and PET scans as MRI does not use radiation.
With a total of 30 million MRI scans per year, MRI is one of the most commonly performed medical imaging tests. There are several interesting facts about MRI that many do not know such as:
The MRI is forty-seven years old
The concept of MRI was first conceived by Isidor Rabi, a physics professor at Columbia University in 1937. Rabi developed a method for measuring the movements of atomic nuclei — a state he decided to call nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and was awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physics. Rabi’s method was used only for chemicals. In the 1960s, Dr. Raymond Damadian began research on the concept for living organisms. Up until the 1970s, MRI technology was only being used for chemical and physical analysis. Enter Raymond Damadian, a doctor, who wondered if the same methods could be used on living organisms to detect disease
In 1971, he concluded that since cancerous tissue contained more water than healthy tissue, it could be detected by scanners that bathed a part of the human body in radio waves and measured the emissions from the local hydrogen atoms.
The image-producing scan we know today was developed in 1973.
MRI was originally called NMR
The first concept of Magnetic Resonance Imaging was called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, or NMR. The name was changed because of the negative connotation of the word “nuclear”.
MRI magnets get very hot
The magnets used in MRI must be cooled. Liquid nitrogen is used to take the magnets down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
MRI magnets are strong
The main magnet in an MRI magnetic field is 140,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field.
Tesla and MRI
MRI machines are calibrated in Tesla units to honor Nikola Tesla, who discovered the rotating magnetic field in 1882.
MRI can diagnose small fractures
MRI scans are often used to identify tumors or bone fractures that are too small for x-ray. These are often called hairline fractures.
MRI and Research
Since an MRI does not use radiation technology, they are safe enough to use for research purposes. They are widely used in scientific research to study brain activity of individuals performing certain routine activities such as meditation or playing video games.