Know Before You Go: MRI Knowledge

by Norman McPhail

What is more important when getting an MRI: Cost or Quality? Is a more expensive scan better quality than a lower priced scan? The simple answer is no, price and quality are not related. In order to weed through the pricing scramble, you will first need to figure out the type of scan you need. Different scans will require a different MRI. Start by asking your doctor to recommend what type of MRI is best for your exam. Just like everything else, MRI Scanners come in many shapes, sizes, quality and pricing. Price deviation in the United States is mainly due to the lack of competition and patient information. Bottom line; do your homework when choosing an MRI facility. Knowledge is everything.

Differences between MRI Scanners
1. Strength of magnet (1.5 Tesla to .25 Tesla) is the most important thing to look for when getting an MRI. The lower-field magnets work for a lot of scans but sometimes a high-field magnet is needed for adequate detail. A high-field MRI increases the signal-to-noise ratio which improves the quality of the image (less grain). It also can measure blood-oxygen levels to help map neural (nervous system) activity in the brain & spinal cord. Check with your doctor for recommended Magnet Strength.

2. Open MRI . If someone is claustrophobic, has a fear of suffocation or space restrictions, an Open MRI is the way to go. However, Open MRIs use a lower field magnet and do not produce as good an image as a high-field MRI.

3. Wide Bore MRI. Traditionally MRI scanners have a tunnel measuring 22 inches wide and are limited by the size and weight of the patient. Wide bore units have a larger tunnel, measuring 6” more space in diameter, than traditional MRI scanners and can handle larger patients (up to 500lbs). An Open MRI is also an option.

4. Short Bore Magnets. A lot of modern high-field (1.5 Tesla or greater) magnets now come with a short bore tunnel (49”) which gives the patient more of an open feel, and will help with anxiety and claustrophobia.

Having a basic knowledge of MRI scanners will make you a better, more informed consumer. You do not want to have to schedule a 2nd exam because the scan was not right and didn’t produce the image needed to properly diagnose your condition. The more you know before you schedule your exam, the better. For more information, go to