An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a procedure that uses powerful magnetic forces and radio-frequency (RF) waves to produce clear images of various parts of the body. MRI scans may require the use of a contrast medium (a substance used to provide clearer images). 

An MRI is done for many different reasons. It is used to find problems such as tumors, bleeding, injury, blood vessel diseases, or infection. MRI also may be done to provide more information about a problem seen on an X-ray, ultrasound scan, or CT scan. Contrast material may be used during MRI to show abnormal tissue more clearly. An MRI scan can be done for the:

  • Head. MRI can look at the brain for tumors, an aneurysm, bleeding in the brain, nerve injury, and other problems, such as damage caused by a stroke. MRI can also find problems of the eyes and optic nerves camera.gif, and the ears and auditory nerves.
  • Chest. MRI of the chest can look at the heart, the valves, and coronary blood vessels camera.gif. It can show if the heart or lungs are damaged. MRI of the chest may also be used to look for breast cancer.
  • Blood vessels. Using MRI to look at blood vessels and the flow of blood through them is called magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). It can find problems of the arteries and veins, such as an aneurysm, a blocked blood vessel, or the torn lining of a blood vessel (dissection). Sometimes contrast material is used to see the blood vessels more clearly.
  • Abdomen and pelvis. MRI can find problems in the organs and structures in the belly, such as the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder. It is used to find tumors, bleeding, infection, and blockage. In women, it can look at the uterus and ovaries. In men, it looks at the prostate.
  • Bones and joints. MRI can check for problems of the bones and joints, such as arthritis, problems with the temporomandibular joint camera.gif, bone marrow problems, bone tumors, cartilage camera.gif problems, torn ligaments or tendons, or infection. MRI may also be used to tell if a bone is broken when X-ray results are not clear. MRI is done more commonly than other tests to check for some bone and joint problems.
  • Spine. MRI can check the discs and nerves of the spine for conditions such as spinal stenosis, disc bulges, and spinal tumors

An MRI takes 20-30 minutes to complete.

The MRI images will be sent to a radiologist who will analyze them. Your doctor will receive the results in approximately 7 days, and discuss them with you. Please note that the person conducting the test will not be able to give you the results of your test. Only a doctor, primary care provider, or specialist can provide you with that information.


Choosing Wisely Canada

Radiological Society of North America

Canadian Association of Radiologists

Canadian Radiation Protection Association


Diagnostic Imaging Department
Level 1, Norman Building
Bluewater Health
89 Norman Street, Sarnia, ON N7T 6S3

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Monday to Friday, 7:30 am to 4:30 pm 
Tel: 519-464-4400, Ext. 5269
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Tel: 519-464-4400, Ext. 5466

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