What is an MRI Exactly? And What’s the Big Deal About Tesla?

You’ve hurt your shoulder and your doctor tells you that you need a MRI. You agree, get the procedure, and voilà, you have a diagnosis. In a few months, your shoulder is back to normal and you are able to start enjoying activities that you couldn’t before your injury. You are so happy that your doctor prescribed an MRI. But what is an MRI and the technology behind this “mysterious” machine?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

The machine creates an electromagnetic field that stimulates the natural electromagnetic elements in your body (protons) by using harmless radio waves. As the waves bounce back, they are turned into images. These are the images your technician sees and your doctor uses for diagnosis.

Now what’s the big deal about Cheyenne Radiology getting a 3 Tesla MRI machine?

To get a complete sense of where the term “Tesla” comes from we have to go back in time to the early 1900s to a man named Nikola Tesla. He was an engineer who created over 700 patents for his inventions and helped spark the modern technology revolution. We owe a lot of the technology we use everyday to him, such as wireless communication, motors, and more. He also helped, in part, to develop the modern MRI. Tesla was one of two scientists to discover the rotating magnetic field. With this discovery, scientists were able to develop the modern MRI from the late 1930s to 1970s, with the first MRI test occurring in 1977.

So, Nikola Tesla didn’t actually create the MRI, so why are there Tesla machines?

While Nikola Tesla did not develop the MRI, scientists did decide to name the unit of measurement of the strength of the magnetic field used by the machine after him. This means that MRI machines are all measured by their tesla strength—the higher the tesla unit, the stronger the magnet. Since the magnet is only using harmless radio waves a stronger MRI does not mean more strain on your body. As opposed to other imaging technology, MRI’s use no radiation.*

Now the important question—what does this mean for you?

Patients at Cheyenne Radiology will soon have access to a new 3 Tesla (or 3T) Machine, this means that its magnetic strength goes up to 3, which is the highest powered MRI machine on the market. The most typical machine is only 1.5 Tesla in strength.

With a stronger magnetic field, we are able to get clearer pictures and more detailed scans. It is also faster and more comfortable for our patients. This means your procedure will take less time and you will get a better diagnosis with more accuracy.

Even better news, MRIs cost the same with your insurance no matter the machine’s strength or type, so you can get a better scan for the same price.

*Note that other types of imaging diagnostics, such as CT Scans, have their own benefits. You should always weigh the pros and cons of different type of imaging technologies with your doctor when being prescribed.