What is an abdominal MRI scan?

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. This is an imaging tool that healthcare providers use to see inside the belly. This machine uses strong magnetic fields and radiofrequency waves to generate high-resolution pictures inside a patient’s abdomen.

Unlike other machines inthe radiology department, MRI does not use any radiation (x-rays). Certain patients, however, may not be able to undergo this test due to the presence of metal inside their body (such as a pacemaker, brain aneurysm clips or metallic implants/fragments). The technologist may also wave a wand over your body (similar to TSA agent at the airport) looking for any metal prior to entering the MRI room.

The most common uses for this test are in the evaluation of or the diagnosis of tumors (either benign or malignant) in the abdomen. It is also used in the diagnosis or evaluation of blood vessel disorders (such as arteriovenous malformations).

The test generally takes 30-60 minutes with the patient usually lying on their back. The machine generates a lot of buzzing noises during the procedure and patients are typically offered earplugs or headphones. In addition, the test often requires an intravenous injection of contrast. This contrast is very different from the contrast (dye) that is used for other radiology tests, including CT scans, angiograms and IVPs. This contrast does not contain iodine, which a number of patients have an allergy to.

Some patients -- for example, those who are over age 60 or who have diabetes, kidney or liver disease -- will need to have a routine blood test to look at their kidney function to make sure they are able to receive this contrast.

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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.