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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radiofrequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone, and virtually all other internal body structures. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (x-rays). Detailed MRI images allow physicians to better evaluate parts of the body (such as the brain and spine) and certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scanning).

The MRI examination poses almost no risk to the average patient when appropriate safety guidelines are followed. Although the strong magnetic field is not harmful in itself, medical devices that contain metal may malfunction or cause problems during an MRI exam. There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected. Such reactions usually are mild and easily controlled by medication.