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Brain magnetic resonance imaging: what is it for?

Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic imaging technique used to highlight various disorders and conditions involving the brain. Among the main conditions that can be detected are headaches, sudden-onset neurological deficits, dementia, primary brain tumors with metastases, diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and other infectious conditions such as encephalitis and meningitis. Another application of brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging is related to the study of vascular malformations such as aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).

What is Brain Magnetic resonance imaging

This type of diagnostic investigation

utilizes the principle of nuclear magnetic resonance, a physical phenomenon where certain atomic nuclei in the human body emit a weak relaxation signal when placed in a strong magnetic field and excited by a radio signal at a certain frequency. The relaxation signals emitted are analyzed by the system, and a computerized reconstruction of the image is displayed on a screen.

For brain magnetic resonance imaging, a particularly powerful magnet is used, through which radio waves produced by various antennas (coils), each dedicated to a specific body segment to be examined, pass.

This process allows a sophisticated software to reconstruct images of the body’s tissues and display them in high definition. As with all other areas, brain MRI enables the acquisition of information about the morphology of the organ in question as well as additional parameters such as the biochemical composition of tissues, cell density, blood perfusion, and overall metabolism. For this reason, when referring to magnetic resonance imaging, the term multi-parametric technique is often used.

Unlike other methods such as CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging makes it possible to carefully analyze (and in all spatial planes) parts of the body that are difficult to examine with other techniques.

For example, with brain MRI, regions near the bony structures of the cranial box, such as the pituitary gland and cranial nerves, can be clearly identified. Similarly, when evaluating the spinal column, the spinal cord and nerve roots can be well visualized, and when studying the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and menisci can be effectively observed.

Brain MRI: what is it used for

With brain MRI, the state of the brain, cerebellum, brainstem, pituitary gland, cerebral ventricles, and acoustic nerves can be accurately assessed, acquiring information about the presence of disorders or abnormalities affecting them.

For these structures, brain magnetic resonance imaging is the most accurate investigation available to us, as it allows for a very detailed morphological and functional analysis. The main fields of application of brain MRI include the detection of primary brain tumors or metastases (for which it represents the most useful investigation alongside a complete neurological examination and CT scan), the evaluation of suddenly occurring neurological deficits and dementia states, and the analysis of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, and meningitis.

Brain MRI is also useful for the assessment of ischemic lesions, vascular malformations such as aneurysms and AVMs (arteriovenous malformations).

Brain MRI: how it’s performed

To perform brain MRI, the patient is placed in a supine position, asked to wear a helmet, and instructed to rest their head on a special support. During the examination, the patient must remain still.

At this point, the examination table is moved into the machine, which generates a high-intensity magnetic field.

At MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini,” within the area dedicated to diagnostic imaging, we use a Philips imaging system with a 1.5 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging intensity. With this intensity and field homogeneity, a more accurate, precise, and safe diagnosis is ensured compared to systems with lower levels or less field homogeneity due to aperture geometry. In fact, magnetic resonance imaging equipment with high magnetic field strength, i.e., above 1.5 T, is authorized for installation and use by the Ministry of Health and is also used for scientific research.

Patients are provided with disposable gowns and earplugs to limit discomfort caused by the noise of the machine during operation. In case of particularly sensitive individuals, headphones are provided to further reduce the noise.


  • The duration of the exams varies from 15 to 45 minutes depending on the request and diagnostic question.
  • If contrast medium is administered, it is necessary to arrive fasting for at least 6 hours and with the result of creatinine (from blood test) not older than 30 days from the date of the exam.
  • It is advisable to bring any documentation related to previous interventions.
  • It is advisable to bring any previously performed exams (specialist visits, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, scintigraphies, etc.).
  • The diameter of the tunnel is 60 cm with openings at the ends.


There are a series of contraindications that make it impossible to perform the MRI exam. In this case, the radiologist will direct the patient to the most appropriate diagnostic exam:

  • Patients with cardiac pacemakers.
  • Patients with ferromagnetic clips in vascular sites.
  • Patients with neurostimulators, infusion pumps.


There are other contraindications for specific situations that should be evaluated with the radiologist during the examination:

  • Patients with orthopedic prostheses.
  • Patients with metallic foreign bodies (splinters, hunting pellets, etc.).
  • Patients with cardiac valve prostheses (in this case, it is necessary to have documentation from the manufacturer or surgeon).
  • Pregnancy in the first trimester.

To undergo brain MRI, booking is necessary. To make an appointment, you can send an email to or call our reception at 0587.609134.

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