MRI with and without contrast is done because it allows better detection and diagnosis of abnormalities. MRI with and without contrast allows us to see the tissues and organs in multiple different ways. Each sequence in MRI both with and without contrast allows us to reach a more precise and accurate diagnosis.
What is MRI contrast?
MRI contrast is gadolinium based. The contrast is injected through an IV. The MRI contrast brightens some of the tissues on a sequence called T1. The brightening of the tissue on T1 allows us to both see more lesions and make a more accurate diagnosis.
Difference between MRI with and without contrast
MRI without contrast means we do not give the gadolinium based contrast through an IV. This means we do the MRI without contrast. Sometimes we can get all the information we need from an MRI without contrast.
An MRI with contrast is mostly done together with an MRI without contrast. This means an IV is placed and we do part of the MRI before we give contrast and some of it after we give contrast through the IV.
Why would a doctor order an MRI with and without contrast?
It depends on the body part being examined. Often contrast lets us see inflammation, infections, tumors, and other focal abnormalities better.
An MRI with and without contrast is a more complete exam since we don’t always know what is causing symptoms ahead of time.
However, it is the standard to perform many MRIs without contrast alone. This is especially true for imaging of the joints like the knee and shoulder and the back. There are exceptions to this like when infections and tumors are suspected or the patient has had surgery.
Many brain and abdominal MRIs are commonly done with and without contrast. This allows for a more complete exam in these organs.
How long does an MRI with and without contrast take?
This can take between 30-90 minutes depending on the type of exam and the specific protocol involved.
Is MRI contrast really necessary?
Yes, it can be in certain cases. Some diagnosis can not be made without contrast. The need for contrast will be determined based on why your having the exam, your history, and what body part is being examined.
Can you drive home after MRI with contrast?
Yes, you can. An exception to this is if you had a sedative prior to your MRI or anesthesia during the MRI. Reactions to MRI contrast can happen but are not common and often mild.
Types of MRI with and without contrast
Brain MRIs are often done with and without contrast. This allows us to detect more abnormalities and provide a more accurate diagnosis.
Chest MRI is done for many different kinds of abnormalities like infections, tumors, and bone abnormalities. We usually do with and without contrast because this allows us to more accurately diagnose abnormalities.
Breast MRI is often done with and without contrast because we can detect and diagnose abnormalities better this way.
Abdomen MRI is often done with and without contrast because this allows us to better detect and diagnose abnormalities.
Pelvis MRI is often done with and without contrast because this allows us to better detect and diagnose abnormalities.
Prostate MRI is done with and without contrast because the diagnosis of prostate abnormalities at times depends on contrast administration.
Many other focused MRIs of the body are also done with and without contrast for the same reasons. The contrast let’s us detect and diagnose many abnormalities.
MRI with and without contrast: summary
MRI with and without contrast is done throughout the body because the contrast allows for a more complete exam. We can see more abnormalities and also are able to provide a more accurate diagnosis. It is standard however to do some exams of the body without contrast because in most cases, we get all the information we need this way.