It might seem that the MRI – or Magnetic Resonance Imaging – scanner is a very modern development in diagnostic medicine. However, the first full body scanner in the UK was built in the 1970s at the University of Aberdeen, and was used as a diagnostic tool for the first time on 28th August 1980. Sadly, the results of the scan weren’t very good news for the patient – they showed a primary tumor in his chest, secondaries in his bones, and an abnormal liver – but in terms of giving doctors a clear image of the patient’s internal organs and skeleton, the machine was a huge success. That first scanner moved to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, and the technology was rapidly and widely adopted as a safe and effective tool in the diagnosis of cancer and other soft tissue, bone diseases, infections, and injuries.
The MRI scan itself employs complex quantum physics, but the principles are simple enough – the scanner uses radio waves alongside two large magnets, and sends incredibly detailed images of bone and soft tissue to a computer. Comprising of a large tube and a table, the patient is slid into the tunnel, where they should stay as still as possible for the duration of the scan. Although the MRI performs a similar function to x-rays and CT scans, no potentially harmful radiation is involved. Because human beings are mostly water, the magnets work by affecting a particle called a proton in the nucleus of the hydrogen atom – the H part of H2O – which is sensitive to magnetism. These particles align in the same direction until interference from the radio waves makes them relax. The process repeats to produce detailed images of the bones and soft tissue, and any problems that may be present.
Even though the process is relatively safe and non-invasive, an MRI is not always suitable; people with metal implants or pacemakers will usually have to have alternative diagnostic scans or examinations, and women should also inform the medical team in advance if they are, or think they might be pregnant. As the tube is closed in, some patients might feel quite claustrophobic, although they will be offered sedation to help them relax.
Being told by your GP that you need a scan to investigate symptoms can be an unsettling time, and it’s very difficult to get on with your normal life or make plans if you’re in the limbo that waiting for a hospital appointment causes. Under these circumstances, finding a private London hospital run by the HCA group can speed up the process. The HCA MRI scan page will not only explain what you can expect from your treatment, including any information you need to know in advance about an MRI scan, but give you clear pricing depending on whether your health insurance will cover the cost, or whether you are a self-pay patient.
Your HCA MRI scan – and any subsequent treatment – will also be at your own convenience, enabling you to concentrate on the business of getting back to your best.
Have you ever had an MRI Scan?
Share your comments and thoughts with us.