Post By
Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

February 28, 2024

What does a brain MRI show?

When your doctor recommends that you get a brain MRI scan, it’s understandable to be curious about what they’re looking for, and about what you can expect from the scan.

 You should know that a brain MRI is an excellent tool when your doctor needs highly detailed pictures of your brain, which they will use to guide your healthcare plan. In this guide, we’ll go into detail about what a brain MRI can help your doctor to see, and about what to expect before, during, and after your brain MRI study.

What is a brain MRI scan?

A brain MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan is a sophisticated medical imaging technique used to produce detailed images of the brain and its associated structures. This scan is particularly helpful for doctors to diagnose and monitor various brain conditions. It can reveal abnormalities like tumors, inflammation, or damage due to brain injury or stroke

A brain MRI scan is also used to investigate symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, vision problems, or seizures. It’s a non-invasive way for your doctor to get a closer look at what’s happening inside your head, providing valuable insights into your health.

How does a brain MRI work?

A brain MRI machine uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to generate detailed images of the brain. The process is painless and typically takes about 30 to 60 minutes from the time you arrive for your appointment to the time you leave our center. 

When you undergo a scan, you’ll lie inside a large, cylindrical machine. This machine creates a strong magnetic field around you, and then radio waves are briefly sent through this field, which a computer uses to create detailed images of your body. 

MRI technology produces clear, cross-sectional images of your brain from various angles, giving your doctor a comprehensive view of your brain’s structure and health. This detailed imagery can be pivotal in diagnosing a range of brain-related conditions.

What a brain MRI can show

A radiologist uses the detailed, cross-sectional images from a brain MRI to take a closer look at the structures of your brain, so they can check for any areas of concern, and provide that information to your doctor. Let’s find out what concerns your doctor may have.

How can an MRI detect brain tumors or cysts?

A brain MRI is particularly effective in detecting brain tumors or cysts. These growths, whether benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), can alter the normal brain structure, and an MRI is capable of capturing these changes in high detail. 

The MRI does this by producing images that differentiate between various types of tissues. Tumors or cysts have a different composition than normal brain tissue, which makes them stand out in the MRI images. 

Your healthcare provider can use these images to determine the size, location, and characteristics of the growth. 

This information is crucial for diagnosis and planning any necessary treatment. For instance, a brain MRI can help distinguish between a solid tumor and a fluid-filled cyst, each requiring a different approach in terms of management and treatment.

Can a brain MRI show evidence of stroke or aneurysms?

An MRI is highly valuable in showing evidence of stroke or aneurysms. In the case of a stroke, the scan can reveal areas of the brain that have been affected by a lack of blood flow. 

The detailed images allow doctors to see the damaged tissues, which can help them understand the severity and type of stroke. This is crucial for determining the appropriate course of treatment. 

As for aneurysms, which are bulges in blood vessels caused by weaknesses in the vessel walls, an MRI can help locate them and assess their size and shape. Detecting aneurysms early is essential as they can lead to serious conditions if they rupture. 

An MRI provides a safe and non-invasive way to monitor these conditions closely so your doctor can make informed decisions about your health.

What are other common conditions that a brain MRI can identify?

A brain MRI can identify a range of other conditions. 

  • These include multiple sclerosis (MS), where MRI can detect areas of the brain and spinal cord that have been affected. 
  • It’s also used in diagnosing and monitoring diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as it can show changes in the brain’s structure related to these conditions. 
  • A brain MRI can also help diagnose infections, inflammations, and developmental anomalies.
  • For people experiencing symptoms like chronic headaches, dizziness, or vision problems, an MRI can provide insights into the underlying causes. 
  • Furthermore, for those with a history of brain injury (concussions), an MRI can assess the extent of damage and help in planning the recovery process. 

Shot of a mature woman being comforted by a doctor before MRI scan.

Getting ready for your brain MRI

There are a few simple things you should do as you prepare for your brain MRI, and a few things you should keep in mind during the scan, so you can get the clearest possible MRI results. Here, we’ll let you know exactly what to expect during your scan.

What should you do to prepare for a brain MRI?

Preparing for a brain MRI is usually straightforward and won’t take much time. 

The thing to remember is that MRIs use a strong magnetic field, so it’s important to remove any metal objects you may be wearing, like jewelry, watches, and hairpins. If you wear hearing aids or dentures, you’ll need to take them out as well. 

In some cases, you might be asked to change into a gown to avoid any interference from zippers or snaps on your clothes. 

Also, make sure to inform our imaging center if you have any metal implants, such as pacemakers or artificial joints, as these can affect the MRI process. 

Some people feel anxious about lying still in the MRI machine. If you’re worried about feeling claustrophobic, it’s a good idea to discuss this with our radiology techs beforehand. They can offer advice or support to help you feel more comfortable during the scan. In addition, Gateway offers 3T Wide-Bore MRIs that provide extra room in the tube shaped bore for your comfort.

What can I expect during and after a brain MRI scan?

During the MRI scan, you’ll lie on a table that slides into the MRI machine. The technician will be in another room but can communicate with you through an intercom. 

It’s very important to stay as still as possible during the scan to ensure that your results are clear.

You might hear loud thumping or tapping sounds while the machine is working – this is completely normal. Some facilities provide headphones or earplugs to help you relax and reduce the noise. 

The scan usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the images and information your doctor needs. 

After the scan, you can typically resume your normal activities immediately. You won’t feel any different, as the MRI doesn’t use radiation and is not harmful. 

The images from your MRI will be analyzed by a radiologist, and your doctor will discuss the results with you at a follow-up appointment.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with a brain MRI?

Brain MRIs are considered very safe and there are no known health risks from the magnetic field or radio waves, as they don’t involve radiation. 

However, the magnetic field can affect metal implants, so it’s crucial to inform us if you have any. 

In rare cases, some people might have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye sometimes used in MRIs. This dye, often given through a vein in your arm, helps certain areas of your brain show up more clearly in the images. If you have kidney problems, be sure to inform our imaging center staff, as the dye can sometimes affect kidney function. 

Interpreting brain MRI results

Your brain MRI will give your doctor an opportunity to see highly accurate images of your brain and the associated structures. We’ll tell you all about how your results are interpreted, and what your next steps might be if your doctor finds anything concerning.

Who analyzes brain MRI results, and how are they interpreted?

Interpreting brain MRI results is a specialized task typically performed by a radiologist, a doctor trained in reading and interpreting medical images. Brain MRI scans are read by subspecialized neuroradiologists that have undergone additional training in interpreting brain scans during a fellowship.

After your MRI scan, the radiologist examines the images for any signs of abnormality or disease. They look at various aspects of your brain, such as its structure, blood vessels, and tissues, to check for any irregularities. 

The radiologist then writes a detailed report explaining the findings. This report highlights areas of interest or concern and provides a preliminary interpretation of what these findings might mean. 

However, it’s important to remember that the radiologist may not have your full medical history, so their interpretation is based purely on what they see in the images. 

Your doctor, who knows your history and symptoms, will review these results in the context of your overall health to provide a more comprehensive understanding.

What happens if your MRI results show an area of concern?

In some cases, your doctor may recommend further tests or scans to get a clearer picture of what’s going on. These additional tests can help determine whether the abnormality is something that requires treatment or just a benign variation. 

It’s crucial to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about your results. Feel free to ask questions and express any concerns you might have. They are there to help you understand your health and guide you through the next steps, if any are needed.

How will my doctor use the brain MRI results to plan for my care?

Your doctor will use the brain MRI results as a crucial piece of information in planning your care. 

If the MRI shows evidence of a condition like a tumor, stroke, inflammation, or other brain diseases, they will assess the best course of action for treatment or management. This might include medication, therapy, or in some cases, surgery. 

If the MRI results are part of a diagnostic process for symptoms like headaches or dizziness, they can help rule out or confirm certain conditions. 

Your doctor will consider these results alongside other factors like your symptoms, medical history, and any other tests you’ve had. This holistic approach ensures that any health decisions are based on a comprehensive view of your situation. 

How to schedule your MRI scan with Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

When you get your scan at one of our imaging centers, we’ll make sure you have access to affordable, high-quality medical imaging from specialized radiologists and certified technologists. 

Reach out to a Gateway imaging center near you, and schedule your MRI appointment today.


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