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What Does a MRI Show?

author image Lia Stannard
Lia Stannard has been writing about women’s health since 2006. She has her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and is pursuing a doctorate in clinical health psychology.
What Does a MRI Show?
A female patient being put into an MRI. Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive imaging technique used as a diagnostic tool for tumors and other abnormalities. The radio frequency pulses and magnetic field create images of your organs, soft tissues, bone and other internal structures; doctors can use this detailed image of your body to locate any problems.

Brain and Spinal Cord

When an MRI is done on the brain or spinal cord, multiple abnormalities can be discovered. Damage to the brain, such as through traumatic brain injury and stroke, can be seen. An MRI is often used to locate brain tumors or check their progression. If multiple MRIs are done on a patient, the progress of dementia can be documented. In addition, developmental abnormalities can be diagnosed.


An MRI of the heart can provide a visual image of the size and thickness of the walls of the chambers of the heart. If you had a heart attack or have heart disease, an MRI can show how much damage has been done to your heart. In addition, an MRI of the heart can help with preventative health, as it will show the build up of plaque, which can lead to heart problems.

Bones and Joints

If you have weakness in one of your joints or bones because of multiple injuries, an MRI can show the extent of the damage and whether other bones have been affected. Besides showing bone and joint abnormalities, an MRI can show if you have arthritis and determine if it is localized in one region of your body.


While mammograms are commonly used to detect breast cancer, the Mayo Clinic recommends an MRI as another option. An MRI breast examination is ideal for women who are at high risk for breast cancer or have dense breast tissue that the mammogram cannot differentiate from cancerous tissue.

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