A pelvic MRI is a minimally invasive diagnostic test performed to obtain images of the pelvis, the area between the hipbones. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive, radiation-free scanning technology that is used to view detailed images of the tissues and organs within the body. During an MRI scan, radio waves and magnetic fields are used to produce clear and detailed three-dimensional images of organs, as well as the hard and soft tissues throughout the body.
Reasons for a Pelvic MRI
A pelvic MRI may be performed to investigate the cause of pelvic, abdominal, or hip pain. Males may undergo a pelvic MRI to identify the cause of an undescended testicle or difficulties with urination, while women may undergo this exam to identify the cause of endometriosis, abnormal vaginal bleeding or to investigate causes of infertility. A pelvic MRI may also be performed as a follow-up diagnostic test after abnormalities have been found on prior X-ray of the pelvis.
The Benefits of a Pelvic MRI
Since it is the most sensitive of all the imaging tests, an MRI often detects abnormalities that cannot be found with other procedures. MRI uses radiofrequency waves. Radio waves detect differences in water concentration and distribution in various body tissues, and produce signals which are then used to create three dimensional images that may be viewed from many different angles.
The pelvic MRI procedure is safe for nearly all patients and the MRI is the only imaging tool to produce images of the hard and soft tissue within the body. The pelvic MRI is an effective diagnostic test that is safe and noninvasive, as it does not expose the patient to radiation.
The Pelvic MRI Procedure
A pelvic MRI is performed as an outpatient procedure and lasts about an hour, depending on how many images are needed. The MRI machine contains strong magnets so metal items such as jewelry, hearing aids or hair clips must be removed before the procedure. The patient lies on a small examination table, and coils may be placed around the hips, to improve the clarity of the images. If the test involves an examination of the prostate or rectum, a small coil may also be placed in the rectum. In some cases, a contrast dye may be injected intravenously to enhance the appearance of certain areas within the body.
During the MRI procedure, the patient lies still on the table that slides into the MRI unit. While the patients lies still, a series of scans obtain the images. The MRI machine uses a combination of magnetic fields and radio frequencies using a special computer to generate images of the body. The MRI procedure does not cause any pain, although claustrophobic patients may require sedation to reduce anxiety. After the MRI, patients can immediately return to normal activities.
Risks of a Pelvic MRI
While a pelvic MRI is considered a safe diagnostic procedure with no major risks for most patients, the use of a strong magnetic field may lead to serious complications for patients with:
- Cardiac pacemakers
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillators
- Cochlear ear implants
- Intrauterine devices
- Metal implants
- Surgical staples
An pelvic MRI is not recommended for women who may be pregnant or breast-feeding. Patients should discuss all related health conditions with their doctors before undergoing an MRI.