If you are a fan of the variety of medical shows on television today then you are likely familiar with the term "MRI." But you may not be know exactly what an MRI is, what it does and if you need one yourself. MRIs are medical imaging procedures for patients and doctors to take a deeper look into the internal structures and functions of the body. But to begin, you should know that MRIs are totally painless and can provide physicians with the proper tools to make accurate diagnoses and form the best treatment plans for the patients. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The name helps to explain how the procedure works. By using strong magnetic and radio waves, MRI machines can create images that are viewed by doctors and technicians in order to determine the presence of disorders or concerning conditions. By imaging at the internal organs and tissues, doctors can look for conditions like joint, muscular and skeletal disorders. MRIs can also help to determine cancer, evidence of stroke, and cardiovascular disease. These conditions can be alarming which prompts the next question: how do you know if you need one? MRIs are usually scheduled at the request of the doctor but if you have a serious concern, mention this to your physician. If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, cancer or other conditions like spinal pain, osteoporosis, and other joint and muscle pains then having an MRI scan performed can help to illuminate these problems for doctors. If you have a family history of stroke, cancer, heart disease and coronary episodes then having regular MRIs performed is recommended. It is also recommended that having these procedures performed after you turn 50 years of age, as this is when risk for these conditions becomes significantly higher. MRIs do not radiation in order to create images but the use of contrast material is common. Contrast fluid is a liquid that can be administered by swallowing or through an IV but it allows certain problem areas like blockages or tumors to be highlighted and easier to see. Contrast material is harmless unless the patient has a kidney condition. Doctors should perform a blood test prior to the MRI scan to determine the function of the kidneys and their ability to filter the contrast material out of the body. Some patients mention a slightly metallic taste but otherwise, the entire procedure allows for little discomfort. Patients that have any metallic implements such as a pacemaker or surgical screws, need to inform the doctor. The magnets in the MRI machine can be damaged and can interfere with these internal technologies. The most important aspect of the scan is that the patient lie very still. The imaging can take up to 1 ½ hours but even slight movements can distort the image and make the procedure last longer. MRIs are a relatively new technology but because of the lack of radiation exposure, there are very little risk involved in having an MRI performed. MRIs are some of the best ways to view the internal structures and to prevent some of the most detrimental conditions. During MRIs, doctors are in separate room but they can see you and be spoken to if you have any problems. If you have other questions or concerns be sure to speak to your doctor and technicians or contact Doctors Imaging in New Orleans, Louisiana for more MRI information. This post was written by M.G. Bachemin in association with Doctors Imaging, specializing in MRI Metairie.