Muscular dystrophy (MD) is the name given to a group of genetic diseases that cause muscle weakness and loss.
Different types of MD are caused by different genetic mutations, and a proper diagnosis can involve a range of tests, such as blood tests, functional tests, muscle biopsies, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
What is an MRI?
An MRI is a rapid, non-invasive diagnostic technique using a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the organs and tissues (such as muscle, fat, and bone) within the body. It works to spot muscles affected by a condition, show the degree of damage, and to guide physicians in choosing tissues to biopsy.
The MRI is a tube-shaped scanner that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produced images in good detail. The magnetic field created temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms (often called protons) in the body, while short bursts of radio waves break the alignment continuously (because the magnets re-establish alignment between the bursts). This sequence sends out weak radio signals that are picked up, and used to create cross-sectional and three-dimensional images of organs and tissues.
It is a safe and noninvasive procedure, and doesn’t expose a patient to X-ray radiation. But people with claustrophobia might be uncomfortable, and should mention this phobia to the specialist working the machine.
The advantages of muscle MRI
MRI is the best method currently in use to evaluate the shape, volume, and physical appearance of voluntary muscles, and distinguish between types of muscles in a muscle group.
MRI can identify Md in asymptomatic patients and is useful in early disease detection, as it is able to spot inflammatory changes in muscle and the presence of edema and fat infiltration.
MRI scans also allow surgeons to pinpoint areas for a muscle biopsy, by identifying affected muscles, limiting the risk of false negative results.
When used with methods such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and diffusion-weighted imaging, MRI scans may aid in bringing a better understand of the biology of MD to researchers and clinicians.
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