What is MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)?

female patient and doctor

MRI is used to scan internal body structures, including the brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, and organs.
Image: Forestpath/Shutterstock.com

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of medical imaging (radiology test) that doctors can use to help diagnose and manage many health conditions.

MRI scanners use magnetic fields, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed images of the internal body structures, including the brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, the heart and blood vessels, breast tissue, and other organs.

MRI scans are painless, and as long as a few precautions are taken they are very safe. An advantage of MRI is that, unlike X-rays and CT scans, it does not use ionising radiation. However, MRI scans do have disadvantages and are not always the preferred type of scan. Also, while MRI scans are covered by Medicare for some medical conditions, there are often out-of-pocket expenses associated with the scan.

Like all tests and imaging, an MRI scan should only be performed if it is likely to help in the diagnosis, treatment and management of your health condition.

Read Jack's story to learn more about the effective use of MRI in knee injuries.

Find out more