What’s in My MRI Report? Decoding Common Terminology

MRI of brain - coronal and lateral AP

Understanding Imaging Reports: A Guide to Common MRI Terminology

If you’ve recently had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam, you may be reading your report notes and wondering: what does all this mean? The findings in the MRI report  are just as important as the images themselves, but at times, they can be confusing and overwhelming. Understanding what’s found in a typical MRI report can help to decrease “scanxiety” for patients awaiting their results. Here are some distinct terms, phrases and acronyms commonly found in MRI reports:

What is a lesion?

A lesion is an area of abnormal tissue that appears different from surrounding tissue on an MRI. It can be caused by a variety of factors such as cancer, infection, or injury.

What does T1-weighted mean on an MRI report?

T1-weighted is a type of MRI image that uses the T1 relaxation time of the tissues to create images. T1-weighted images highlight soft tissues and can help identify tumors and other lesions.

What does T2-weighted mean on an MRI report?

T2-weighted is a type of MRI image that uses the T2 relaxation time of tissues to create images. T2-weighted images highlight fluid-filled spaces and can help identify inflammation, swelling, or fluid buildup.

What is signal intensity?

Signal Intensity: refers to the brightness or darkness of an area on an MRI image. Signal intensity can be used to differentiate between normal and abnormal tissues and help diagnose certain conditions.

What is edema?

Edema is the swelling or inflammation caused by an accumulation of fluid in the tissues. Edema can be seen on an MRI as an area of increased signal intensity and can be indicative of injury, infection, or other underlying medical conditions.

What does enhancement mean on an MRI report?

Enhancement is an increase in signal intensity in a specific area on an MRI image following the injection of contrast material. Enhancement can help identify areas of abnormal tissue, such as tumors, that have increased blood flow and uptake of the contrast material.

What is a sequence in MRI reports?

A single protocol used to acquire an image is called a sequence. Different sequences, such as T1-weighted or T2-weighted, can be used to highlight different tissue characteristics and aid in the diagnosis of various medical conditions.

Resources Available to Patients After an MRI

Patients are encouraged to ask their healthcare provider for explanations or clarification if they have any questions about their report, but it helps to show up prepared. 

PocketHealth enables patients to access their MRI scans and reports online and offers Report Reader, a feature that  helps patients decipher some of the most complex terms found in imaging reports. It provides in-browser definitions on all devices, with complex terms highlighted and defined using simple language. This way, users don’t have to navigate out of the platform and scour search engines to find credible and accurate information.  It’s one way PocketHealth reduces “scanxiety” and simplifies medical imaging records for patients who want to be at the center of their care.

Since medical imaging uses unique and complex language, you can refer to the PocketHealth’s Radiology Terminology index to find definitions for other uncommon terms.

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