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A person who has suffered a serious ankle injury or experiences chronic pain may need to receive an ankle MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging scan. An MRI machine is a medical device that uses magnets and radio waves to produce an image of the internal structure of a body part. A doctor can use an MRI to carefully investigate problems with tendons, ligaments, joint tissue, and bones. Knowing what to expect when going in for an MRI can ease the stresses and concerns a person may have. A patient can expect to answer many medical history questions before the procedure, lie down for up to an hour and a half while his or her foot is being scanned, and wait for radiologists to interpret the results.
Under certain conditions, physicians might instruct their patients to limit their consumption of food or water for a period before an ankle MRI procedure. At the hospital or specialty clinic, technicians, nurses, or doctors usually ask patients several questions about their medical history. A medical professional usually asks whether a patient has any lingering heart problems or artificial parts, such as pacemakers, artificial heart valves, or metal plates. A technician might also ask about the specific symptoms regarding an injury or condition to get a better idea of what to focus on during the MRI scan.
When it is time to start the scan, the patient is instructed to dress in a hospital gown and remove any metal jewelry, bracelets, and watches as metal can disrupt the MRI machine. The patient is told to lie down on a table that is slid into the machine, which looks like a large metal tube. For an ankle MRI, a person usually only needs his or her leg to be inside the tube.
During the procedure, the technician instructs the individual to remain very still to ensure accurate readings. The machine makes clicking or knocking sounds while it is recording images, so loud noises should not be a concern. Depending on the severity and complexity of an injury, the ankle MRI may take anywhere from about fifteen minutes to half an hour to complete. Once the procedure is finished, the technician will help the patient off of the table and allow him or her to redress.
Ankle MRI images must be carefully interpreted by trained radiologists, who may or may not be available immediately after a procedure. Often, patients to not hear their results for several days, when copies of the images are sent to their primary care doctors. Based on the results, physicians can make accurate diagnoses and decide on the best treatment options. It is possible that a patient may have to receive more than one MRI to monitor progress and the effectiveness of a surgery or other treatment.