Magnetic Resonance

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio frequencies to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues and bones. Unlike X-rays, an MRI does not use radiation. The MRI scanner is a large, cylindrical (tube-shaped) machine that creates a strong magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to knock the nuclei of the atoms in the body out of their normal position. As they  move back into proper position, radio signals are sent to the computer that converts the signals into images for in-depth analysis.

The MRI can be performed on an outpatient basis or as part of inpatient care at one of our state-of-the-art imaging centers. It typically takes 30 to 40 minutes and can be done with or without contrast, which is a dye-like substance injected into an intravenous (IV) line that causes the particular organ or tissue under study to be seen in more detail. Contrast examinations may require the patient to fast for a certain period of time before the procedure. After the MRI is completed, the images are read and interpreted by a Houston Methodist fellowship-trained radiologist. All of our radiologists are extensively trained in sub-specialties and supported by an experienced and dedicated team of technical and support staff.

Our MRIs are comfortable for patients who may experience claustrophobia or for those who require more physical space. The open configuration provides three times more patient space than cylindrical high-field MRIs. Studies have shown that most patients prefer wide-open MRIs over cylindrical systems.

The MRI scanners at Houston Methodist provide safe, accurate diagnostic imaging for a wide array of injuries, conditions and diseases, which our board-certified radiologists with sub-specialty training will interpret. An MRI has multiple diagnostic purposes:

  • Diagnose cardiac conditions and strokes
  • Assess blood flow and vascular conditions
  • Detect tumors and diagnose many forms of cancer
  • Diagnose breast disease
  • Examine male and female reproductive organs
  • Determine conditions and injuries to the brain, spinal cord, bones and joints
  • Examine conditions and injuries to the bones, joints, extremities and other soft tissues
  • Evaluate infections

The quality of images produced by the MRI is measured by the tesla, a unit of measurement for magnets. The higher the tesla of the MRI, the higher the quality of images produced by the MRI. We offer three MRI tesla levels:

  • 3-tesla wide-bore MRI has the highest field strength clinically available, ensuring superior quality images, which results in a more precise diagnosis, leading to a better treatment plan. The wide-bore MRI has a shorter tunnel that allows your head to remain outside the tunnel for most of the scan, an option for patients who are claustrophobic.
  • 3-tesla MRI provides superior image resolution in a shorter exam time. Our 3-tesla MRI scanners are accredited by the American College of Radiology.
  • 1.5-tesla MRI is considered the industry standard. This type of MRI is beneficial to patients with surgically implanted hardware. A patient with a stent or other implant may be turned away from a 3-tesla MRI for safety reasons, but may be able to opt for the 1.5-tesla scanner.

Cardiac MRI
A cardiac MRI is a routine test that provides real-time images that help with assessing how best to treat patients with heart conditions or disease. This technology allows our radiologists to clearly see heart damage caused by a heart attack. It can also help with diagnosing heart failure, heart valve problems, congenital heart defects (present at birth), pericarditis (when the membrane around the heart is inflamed) and cardiac tumors. Patient safety is enhanced with the use of cardiac MRIs by eliminating exposure to potentially harmful radiation. Houston Methodist’s commitment to patient safety is illustrated by our addition of new lower dose imaging technologies:

  • GE Revolution CT
  • Bariatric CT (higher weight capacity)
  • Low dose lung imaging
  • 256-slice CT technology

Breast MRI
A breast MRI is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnets and radio frequencies to produce a picture of the inside of the body. This test is not painful and there is no harmful radiation involved. It is usually done for breast cancer staging or for evaluating implants. A breast MRI is extremely helpful in evaluating mammogram abnormalities and identifying early breast cancer, especially in women at high risk. High-risk women include those who have had breast cancer or have a mother or sister who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast MRI provides unsurpassed clarity in breast imaging and is used most commonly in high–risk women when the findings of a mammogram or ultrasound are inconclusive because of dense breast tissue, which is often found in younger woman, or there is a suspected abnormality that can be felt, but is not visible and requires further evaluation.

MRI Arthrogram
An arthrogram is an exam used to obtain images of a joint in order to diagnose small defects in the soft tissue of the joints. Arthrograms may be performed on the hip, shoulder, knee, elbow, wrist or ankle. MRI arthrograms combine fluoroscopy and images from MRI to find the cause of joint pain.

Additional Information and Scheduling Appointments
To learn more about MRIs and how to prepare for your appointment, please review our patient information, which includes frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Please call 713.790.3333 to schedule an appointment with a Houston Methodist board-certified radiologist. Once you have scheduled your appointment, please complete and bring with you the MRI safety questionnaire here.


Houston Methodist treats all types of arrhythmias at our convenient treatment locations across the city: