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What is a Whole Body MRI scan?

A Whole Body MRI scan is based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a process that uses powerful magnets, radio waves and sophisticated computer imaging to create detailed pictures of what is happening inside your body.

An MRI machine uses rapidly varying magnetic fields to excite hydrogen atoms in the water and fat molecules contained in the patient’s body – momentarily causing them to become weak radio transmitters. Coils in the MRI machine receive these radio waves, which are then reconstructed by computer software to produce well-defined images of many internal structures including soft tissue in the brain, breasts, spine and abdomen, as well as joints such as the hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

What are Whole Body MRI scans used for?

A Whole Body MRI scan is useful for individuals who are asymptomatic but want an overview of their current health. Whole Body MRI examines as many as four sections of concern to identify cancers, inflammation or obstructive processes in the body:

  • An MRI of the head can show brain masses, shrinkage, old strokes, and detail of the sinuses and nasal cavities.
  • In the neck, MRI can detect abnormalities in the lymph nodes, thyroid masses or arthritis in the cervical spine.
  • MRI of the chest can obtain an overview of heart enlargement and cancer in the lungs.
  • The abdomen section can capture information of the pelvis area, kidneys, liver, spleen, adrenal glands, pancreas and bladder for tumours or inflammation.

Early detection of cancers can radically change the type of treatment options available to patients. Other areas of concern might benefit from simple changes in lifestyle such as eating habits or exercise.

Who can benefit from a Whole Body MRI?

In general, screening is useful where some improvement in your health outcomes can be achieved by early detection. A Whole Body MRI may benefit anyone with concerns about cancer, heart disease or their general health that does not have pronounced symptoms. For those with a family history of disease or fears about developing cancer in the future, the procedure can provide peace of mind in one appointment with no exposure to radiation. This procedure is intended for those who are not currently presenting signs of an illness – if you are experiencing any symptoms, contact your GP.

You can select as many as four areas to scan at a visit of one-hour duration, with each area taking from 15-30 mins. It is advisable to select the areas within a category, for example, Brain: Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), CVA (cerebrovascular accident) and CV (cerebrovascular).

NOTE: Some scans require more time and precision, and are therefore equivalent to two standard scans when selecting your focus areas. These are highlighted below with an asterixis (*) so that you can make an informed choice about how many areas we will be able to review.

Brain

  • Dementia Screening
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Screening
  • Sinuses Screening
  • Pituitary Screening
  • Brain Vascular(CVA) Screening
  • Brain Cardio-Vascular Screening
  • Tinnitus Screening

Neck

  • Cervical Vascular Screening
  • Neck Soft Tissue Screening

Spine

  • Cervical Spine screening*
  • Thoracic Spine Screening*
  • Lumbar Spine Screening
  • Sacro-coccygeal Screening

Chest

  • Chest CT for lung cancer
  • Chest Wall/Axilla Screening
  • Breast Cancer Screening*
  • Breast Silicon Screening*
  • Breast Ultrasound Screening

Abdomen*

  • Adrenal Screening*
  • Liver Screening*
  • Kidney Screening*
  • Pancreas Screening*
  • Vascular Screening*

Pelvis*

  • Prostate Screening*
  • Testes Screening*
  • Pelvis/Hips OA Screening*
  • Congestion Screening*
  • Ovary Screening*
  • Uterus Screening*

How much does a Whole Body MRI scan cost?

A Whole Body MRI scan is not eligible for a Medicare rebate and will incur a fee, variable based on your individual treatment plans. Contact us and explain your requirements to receive a competitive quote. When you have decided to proceed with the scan, you can pay by phone when you make your booking or pay in person when you arrive. We accept cash, card, Eftpos or cheque, but do not accept AMEX.

What are the risks of a Whole Body MRI scan?

An MRI scan is a painless process that has the benefit of obtaining images of inside your body while avoiding exposure to x-ray radiation. MRI scans have no known side effects.

However, there is potential danger in some cases due to the powerful magnetic field of the scanner. Patients who have had recent surgery, or any metallic devices, implants or other material within the body MUST notify their physician prior to the examination and inform the Adelaide MRI staff. This is because metallic chips, surgical clips, artificial joints, metallic bone plates or prosthetic implants can distort images obtained by the MRI scanner, or interact with the magnet in the machine. To avoid the risk of the magnet moving metal contained in the body, it will not be safe for you to be scanned if you have a:

  • Cardiac pacemaker
  • Cochlear Implant
  • Neurostimulator

It may not be safe for you to be scanned if you have one of the following:

  • Cerebral Aneurysm Clip
  • Metal in your eyes
  • Artificial Heart Valve
  • Pregnancy (in first 3 months)
  • Infusion Pump.

Please ensure you advise our booking staff if you have a pacemaker, cochlear implant, or another surgical device in your body when you book, or if you have ever been exposed to metallic foreign bodies around your eyes.

If you are pregnant, you must inform our staff prior to your examination.

While MRI scanning is a widely-used and accurate method for the detection of abnormalities, it should be noted that false negatives, where a scan appears normal but cancer is present, sometimes occur. False positives, where the patient presents abnormalities that bear the characteristics of cancer when cancer is not present, will also occasionally be returned. Any signs of abnormality which suggest cancer or other diseases will be followed by further tests to ensure your diagnosis is as accurate and complete as possible.

While some patients can experience fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia), the MRI room layout and décor is designed to minimise this. If you have any concerns about having an MRI scan, please discuss these with our friendly staff before undergoing the process.

Want more information about MRI scans?

Beyond preventative imaging, MRI scans are used as a diagnostic technique for patients with a variety of symptoms. If your doctor has referred you for an MRI scan, or if you would like to know more about the preparation for an MRI scan, click here for our general information page about MRI.

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