A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure commonly used around the world. An MRI scan can be performed on the brain, breast, bones, heart, and other parts of the body to determine any anomalies that are related to a disease. But how do you read an MRI scan?

  1. Verify the image and patient information first

Before you can start reading an MRI scan, you need to verify if the images are from the correct patient first. Technicians will label images with the name of the patient and the time and date of the scan, which will help you locate the most up-to-date images if you’re looking at a series of scans.

It would also be helpful to look for previous scans if there are any. You should also verify if you’re looking at the correct body part or the correct side if you’re dealing with the upper or lower limbs.

  1. Check for the T2 and T1 images

There are basically two major types of MRI images: T2 and T1 weighted images. These images both represent different tissues based on the timing of the RF pulses. T1 means one bright tissue that’s mostly composed of fat while T2 means two bright tissues composed of fat and water.

Between these two images, T2 is more commonly used while T1 is utilized for analyzing anatomical structures or to compare between fat and water bright signals.

When reading the MRI, check the T2 weighted images first for any abnormal signals across different planes. Carefully work through the anatomy of the area that you want to examine to make sure that all planes are covered.

If you find any abnormal signals, take note of their size, location, intensity and shape, and compare both sides of the image if available.

You can use T1 or fat-sensitive images as a comparison against your T2 or water-sensitive images. This will allow you to determine some anomalies like the presence of inflammation or ischemia. Aside from these images, you can also look into different MRI sequences including:

  • Short tau inversion recovery (STIR). This sequence is based on a T2 weighted image that’s manipulated in a way that nullifies fat and other materials with the same signals.
  • Fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR). This is similar to T2 weighted images but it nullifies the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) signal, making it useful for evaluating parts of the central nervous system.
  1. Look out for abnormal MRI signals

As you look at the different images from various MRI sequences and modalities, it’s very important to check for abnormalities in the MRI signal.

Be on the lookout out for the nature of signal change and the size, shape, and anatomical location of the abnormality. It also helps to compare different scans to determine how much fat and water are present within that body part.

  1. Correlate the images

To get a better picture of your scan, you can correlate the MRI images to any previous imaging or other modalities. For instance, you can compare X-ray images with those you’ve seen on the MRI to confirm the presence of an abnormality.

You should also look into the condition in question and look into the correlation of the physical signs and symptoms to the diagnostic results from the MRI and other procedures. This will help you come up with a good diagnosis and plan treatments according to what a patient needs.

Remember that while the MRI scan will reveal the exact position and size of an abnormality, you will still need the clinical history of the patient to really determine the right diagnosis for his condition.

Of course, don’t forget to always compare both sides of a scan and be methodical with your analysis to come up with the best results.


An MRI scan is definitely one of the best tools out there for diagnosing different medical conditions, especially when used in correlation with other medical procedures.

How do you read an abdominal and pelvic MRI?

Can an MRI be read immediately?

The swift transmission of diagnostic information is important to both patients and referring physicians. The results from an MRI scan are typically interpreted within 24 hours, and the scans themselves are usually given immediately to the patient on a disc after the MRI is complete.

What do MRI brain scans look for?

MRI can detect a variety of conditions of the brain such as cysts, tumors, bleeding, swelling, developmental and structural abnormalities, infections, inflammatory conditions, or problems with the blood vessels. It can determine if a shunt is working and detect damage to the brain caused by an injury or a stroke.

What does an MRI tell you?

An MRI helps a doctor diagnose a disease or injury, and it can monitor how well you‘re doing with a treatment. MRIs can be done on different parts of your body. It’s especially useful for looking at soft tissues and the nervous system.

Why did my MRI hurt?

The magnetic fields that change with time create loud knocking noises which may harm hearing if adequate ear protection is not used. They may also cause peripheral muscle or nerve stimulation that may feel like a twitching sensation. The radiofrequency energy used during the MRI scan could lead to heating of the body.

What should you not do before an MRI?

The absolute most important thing not to do before an MRI is to lie or leave out information when talking to your doctor or the MRI technicians. MRIs are not safe for certain people. If you are enceinte or breastfeeding, you may be asked to delay the MRI, if possible.

Why do I feel weird after an MRI?

22, a team led by Johns Hopkins scientists suggests that MRI’s strong magnet pushes on fluid that circulates in the inner ear’s balance center, leading to a feeling of unexpected or unsteady movement.

What happens if you move during an MRI?

If you move, the MRI scan pictures may not be clear. Your primary care physician may order you a mild sedative if you are claustrophobic (afraid of closed spaces), have a hard time staying still, or have chronic pain. You will hear very loud banging noises during the series of scans.

Can a MRI tell if you smoke?

Did You Know? Our brains are pretty smart! A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan revealed that an MRI scan can detect the likelihood of a smoker being able to quit smoking.

Does nicotine show up in MRI?

August 20, 2019 — Findings from MRI scans show that vaping immediately affects vascular function, even when the liquid solution contained in the electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) does not contain nicotine, according to a study published August 20 in Radiology.

Can a Dr tell if you smoke?

Yes, your doctor can tell if you smoke occasionally by looking at medical tests that can detect nicotine in your blood, saliva, urine and hair. When you smoke or get exposed to secondhand smoke, the nicotine you inhale gets absorbed into your blood.

Do ex smokers lungs heal?

Fortunately, your lungs are self-cleaning. They begin that process after you smoke your last cigarette. Your lungs are a remarkable organ system that, in some instances, have the ability to repair themselves over time. After quitting smoking, your lungs begin to slowly heal and regenerate.

How can you identify a smoker?

Tell-tale signs of smoking
  1. Stains. Nails and fingers: Nails and fingers of smokers may take a yellow stain due to repeated exposure to smoke and tar in smoke.
  2. Burns.
  3. Skin changes.
  4. Smell of smoke.

How long does one puff of a cigarette stay in your system?

People also process nicotine differently depending on their genetics. Generally, nicotine will leaves your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco, and cotinine will be gone after 1 to 10 days. Neither nicotine nor cotinine will be detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days of stopping tobacco products.

Is 1 cigarette a day harmful?

A study in the January 24 issue of The BMJ found that smoking even one cigarette a day carries significant health consequences, namely a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Is one cigarette a week bad?

Simon Chapman, Emeritus Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney said: “Smoking a small number of cigarettes, say less than four a day or once a week does elevate your risk [of health problems].

How many cigarettes a day is heavy smoking?

Background: Heavy smokers (those who smoke greater than or equal to 25 or more cigarettes a day) are a subgroup who place themselves and others at risk for harmful health consequences and also are those least likely to achieve cessation.