What is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head and neck?

A head MRI uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to gather accurate information about the brain and surround nerve tissues. Then a computer uses this information to generate realistic pictures that represent your body. An MRI can evaluate the head and determine if there is an acoustic tumor or other serious problem causing hearing loss. This imaging test can be used to diagnose cancer.

The older, conventional type of MRI is a closed cylinder-shaped magnet, and it may cause you to feel claustrophobic. Ask your doctor about the new “open” MRIs that are open partially or on all sides. Some new MRIs are wider and do not fully enclose the patient. While the newer models allow for more patient comfort, the images may not be as precise as with conventional MRIs, so work with your doctor to find the best outcome.

An MRI does not have the radiation exposure of CT scan or x-ray. While it can show some problems more easily than other imaging methods, in some situations, your doctor may also order a CT scan or a combination of tests to make an accurate diagnosis. MRI scan can be done without admission to the hospital and is safe.

In reading the report, the radiologist will look for any abnormal results on a head MRI, including abnormal blood vessels in the brain, an acoustic neuroma, a brain tumor or abscess, or other problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.