Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) FAQs

What is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam?

MRI San Francisco | Marin County CAMagnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a method of advanced imaging that allows doctors to look at soft tissues such as muscles and nerves in fine detail. An MRI does not replace standard X-rays, and in many instances X-ray adds significantly to the value of an MRI.

Why would I need an MRI exam?

An MRI is especially useful for the diagnosis of soft tissue injuries such as ligament tears, meniscal tears, cartilage damage, rotator cuff problems, disc herniations, and spine disorders.

How does an MRI work?

An MRI uses a large magnetic coil that takes pictures using radio waves and magnetic fields instead of X-rays. Depending on the body part imaged, the test takes about thirty minutes and does require a portion of the body to be placed inside the scanner; i.e. a closed bore MRI. A "closed bore" MRI, short bore high resolution scanner, provides a much higher quality image than an open MRI, and many doctors, particularly for the spine, specifically request that patients do not get an open MRI. The test does not require sedation, is non-invasive, and there is no pain.

Spine MRI San Francisco | Marin County CA
Knee MRI San Francisco | Marin County CA
Shoulder MRI San Francisco | Marin County CA

What Parts of the body can an MRI Scan Examine?

MRI scans can examine the following parts of the body:

  • Bones and Joints - This scan can examine pain or injuries in bone, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, infections or growths.
  • Head and Brain - Also known as cranial MRI, scans the brain and nerve tissues looking for serious brain injuries
  • Chest and Heart - Used for issues with the lungs or heart
  • Stomach - Used for issues in stomach, liver, kidneys
  • Pelvis - Used to check for ovary or uterine problems in women and prostate checks for men
  • Neck and Spine - Used to find and problems with the spine that may be affecting other parts of the body

What is special about the MRI exam at Mt. Tam?

The scanner at Mt. Tam Orthopedics and Spine Center is a state-of-the-art General Electric GE Signa® HDe 1.5T Scanner. This scanner uses the latest high-definition (HD) technology and provides a clearer, more detailed image that improves diagnostic accuracy and significantly shortens exam times. MRI studies are then sent over a secure internet connection to a radiologist at Marin Magnetic Imaging, one of the most prominent sports medicine imaging groups in the country.  The scanner is also networked to the computers at Mt. Tam Orthopedics and Spine Center and can be reviewed shortly after completion.

What if I’m not a Mt. Tam patient?

The Mt. Tam Orthopedics and Spine Center MRI is also available to patients who are not patients of our practice but have been given a prescription for an MRI by another physician. Make an appointment today for an MRI by calling 415-927-5300.

How can I learn more about MRI’s?

Visit From the horizontal toolbar click on Body Part/System, then select the body system or part to be imaged.

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The doctors at Mt. Tam Orthopedics and Spine Center have financial ownership of Mt. Tam MRI.

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