Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Unique Medium of Information

Usman Khan

Mr. Josephson

Comparative Studies 2367

Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Unique Medium of Information

            Magnetic resonance imaging, known as MRI, is an essential medium used throughout health care that engages the senses and allows information to be transferred. Commonly used in hospitals to help identify a problem to better treat a patient, and to allow a better medium of information for physicians and even allowing the patient to understand what is going on. The MRI has been useful in and of itself progressing the advancement of medicine, and is a crucial machine used presently. By helping to view tissue at a unique microscopic level to better find a diagnosis, and leading to better treatment and prevention of a disease, it has allowed medicine advance far better than most medical machines.The MRI is a great medium to analyze due to it existing as a tangible material which engaging various senses and allows for unprecedented possibilities in the field of medicine.

As an essential medium used in medicine the MRI exists as a material object to encompass its functions. To understand the function and even the power of an MRI, it is necessary to understand how it works. A basic understanding would be that “It is a procedure used in hospitals to scan patients and determine the severity of certain injuries” (Kalapurayil). An MRI produces detailed scans of tissue in the body used to identify the severity of an injury and it does this through laying inside of an MRI on a push in table. The structure of the MRI is simple and its functions encompass its structure. Everything was built for a specific reason in allowing the MRI to work, with no excess. Primary components of the MRI consists of a large external magnet, coils, radio frequency equipment, and a computer used to generate a 3-D image. It has a long tube inside the machine with a large magnet in the middle of the machine. Then there is a comfortable table in the external portion of the MRI where a patient lies down The table gets pushed closer into the center of the MRI to begin the process that leads to the main function of the MRI. There are many wires in the machine itself, which are covered, and they are used to pass electrical currents generating a strong magnetic field. Then there is something known as a coil, which is placed on a body part to send and receive radio frequency waves. These waves can go through our skin and this allows the protons in our body to align themselves and the protons then absorb the RF waves. These protons tend to spin quickly because of the energy they received, thus emitting or releasing the energy waves to the coil and generating a 3-D image of the specific body part being scanned. It is a fairly simple design if one can understand engineering and physics, but to those not knowledgeable on the subject it can seem confusing, yet still can be comprehended with a basic understanding of science.

Besides the tangible materiality of the medium it also engages our senses in a variety of ways. When a person is being scanned in the MRI there are many continuous loud thumping noises. These noises are produced by magnets turning on and off continuously, and also by the noise of camera taking the pictures. Just as a camera makes a noise when taking a picture, the MRI makes an even louder noise when taking such a detailed image of your tissues. This noise can indubitably cause more anxiety and nervousness, so the MRI surely engages our auditory senses. Also when someone is needed to use an MRI for any sort of procedure, that said person is surely in a state of anxiety even before being in the MRI. Simply due to the fact of being aware that this is a unique procedure not meant for an everyday sort of check-up makes a person more nervous and scared, seeing as a typical visit to the hospital usually does not require someone to be laid down in a huge metal machine. Thus, the MRI engages the senses mentally as well, because it can be nerve wrecking for a person to even think about being in MRI for maybe thirty minutes to maybe even two hours depending on the severity of the case. Leading to the MRI being a medium not just for treating conditions, but also has a characteristic trait of engaging a variety of senses. A solution to the loud noises is using headphones allowing people to have the option to listen to music and to avoid this nerve wrecking noise. Although for many people having to know they will be in the magnetic resonance machine is nerve wrecking, it is still completely safe and people should not be too anxious or worried.

Being such a crucial medium of information the MRI needs to make things possible and these possibilities are crucial in helping physicians, treating patients with safety, and creating a better understanding for the patient when confused. The MRI helps make physicians life easier and allows them to see things that were likely impossible to see just a few decades ago. The image produced through the MRI allows physicians to see body organs and tissues in fine detail, and allowing the detection of abnormalities which otherwise could not be detected to help better treat patients. Opposed to a CT-Scan, which is just an upgraded x-Ray, a CT-Scan does not produce such fine detail of tissues, and X-Rays are more commonly used for bones so it is clear the MRI is the best option to visually see extreme detail of organs. Also in contrast to a CT-Scan, the MRI does not emit ionizing radiation. Avoiding radiation makes possible a safer procedure to better treat patients. A person who is going to have to use MRI is already a bit nervous as is, and if there were risk of radiation, you can imagine how frightening MRI would be. Fortunately, the MRI is safe and having no radiation makes possible of better treating the patient without the use of risk, and by not jeopardizing their future health and well-being due to radiation.

The MRI also makes possible a better patient understanding, as well as better physician-patient interaction. For a patient it is better to see a visual image rather than being bombarded with medical terminology that a patient might not understand. I believe Marshal McLuhan put it best when he stated, “In general we feel more secure when things are visible, when we can ‘see for ourselves.’”(McLuhan 117). This corresponds to the patient feeling more safe and secure seeing an image to better understand the situation. Especially in a hospital setting where most people are not educated enough to have the vast array of knowledge a doctor has, it then becomes pivotal to help lessen the confusion of a patient. MRI truly allows that lessening of confusion due to a visual image in front of the patient. For example, when learning a difficult concept it is quite often better to see a visual demonstration of the concept than just reading throughout a textbook. As McLuhan said, it is better when things are visible because it allows people too see with their own eyes to try to understand what is going on. A visual image or even any sort of visual mediums like videos, allow for better understanding than listening or reading. Also having the visual image, allows the doctor to better explain himself to the patient because now the patient has a much better understanding. This also allows the patient to feel more comfortable interacting with the doctor because they are both on the same page by looking at the image. Although the doctor will still need to explain some parts of the image, the patient will sill understand through the doctors information and supplementing that with the visual image in front of the patient. MRI indubitably makes possible of better patient understanding and a better physician-patient interaction through the generated 3-D image a doctor shares with the patient.

MRI is a great advancement in modern medicine due to finding problems otherwise not visible with the naked eye, however there are still economic and social issues revolving around MRI. A major economic problem would be affording MRI, which is greatly impacted by healthcare costs. Ezra Klein wrote an article entitled, “Why an MRI Costs $1080 in America and $280 in France”. In the article she mentions it largely has to do with the average a person spends on healthcare every year. “Americans spent $7,960 per person on healthcare”, and “The French, $3,978″(Klein). These are significant figures which impact the cost of MRI. Insurance companies charge more for a person living in the U.S. solely because the insurance companies pay so much more compared to insurance companies in France. Also these numbers are just averages, sometimes the cost of an MRI can be more than $4,000 depending on what body parts need to be scanned. These are significant numbers which impact the economics of MRI, thus influences society because it makes it difficult for the poor/middle-class to afford MRI. Societal implications would be the social inequality. The rich will have better access to MRI compared to someone who is poor and without any insurance. Even if you have insurance, some insurance companies might not pay for the full cost of MRI creating more issues. It is a consistent imbalance, because we have the harsh economics greatly influencing society which sheds a visible light on the social inequality involving MRI. I believe this is a huge problem because it simply is not fair for people to lose their lives simply on the cost of MRI. Also when new advancements are made in medicine it will even lead to more social inequality because the cost will always be so expensive. The MRI is a great advancement in medicine, however it is still influenced by economics which indubitably leads some people to lose their lives because of the expensive costs of a medical instrument that ironically was meant to help save lives.

MRI is an imperative machine used in the advancement of medicine, and although not seen as a conventional medium akin to a book or website, it still is a medium nonetheless. By allowing a transfer of information from the body to be analyzed, engaging the senses, creating new possibilities, it is indubitably a unique medium of information. MRI is simply unique medium to analyze due to fact it is a medium only used in the hospital. By being unique to the hospital it has been upgraded solely to treat patients in whatever way it can. Either through allowing fine-tuned images of organs, not emitting radiation, a better understanding for patients, and even a better physician-patient interaction, the MRI has become a pivotal medium of information used in hospitals. MRI has helped so many people in the world through its’ use of function, that without MRI it would surely be a loss to the world, and indubitably contravening to the advancement of new mediums in advancing medicine due to MRI being a stepping stone for what is to come.

 Work Cited

Kalapurayil, Mattew. “What Is MRI? How Does MRI Work?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <;

McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage. New York: Bantam, 1967. Print.

“MRI:MedilinePlus. Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2015 <>

Klein, Ezra. “Why an MRI Costs $1,080 in America and $280 in France.” Why an MRI Costs $1,080 in America and $280 in France. The Washington Post, 6 Mar. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.                                      <;.

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