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MRI is a powerful technology for looking inside the body

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates detailed images of your organs and other structures inside your body. The test is painless, relying on a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to do its work. Your doctor gets images that offer great clarity from multiple angles. An MRI is considered safe because it uses no radiation and no incisions are necessary.

Some of the specialized types of MRI we offer at Novant Health include:

 Breast MRI

A breast MRI is typically highly accurate in detecting breast cancer, especially if you have dense breast tissue. A breast MRI generally takes 30 to 45 minutes, not including preparation time. You will lie on a movable table. Once positioned, the technologist will move the table into the MRI scanner. Visit our Breast MRI page to find out if this procedure is right for you.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, makes it possible to see specific parts of the brain. The fMRI scanner create images of areas that are responsible for movement, language, memory and other functions. The test identifies these regions by detecting changes in blood flow and oxygen levels as you answer questions and perform simple tasks. The technician may ask you to tap your thumb against each finger on the same hand, for example.

Your doctor may recommend fMRI before brain surgery, to map different regions of the brain. The exam typically takes 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. You may need to drink a solution that helps produce clear images, or you may take the contrast liquid intravenously, through an IV needle.

A radiologist will review your scans and send a report to your doctor, who can discuss the results with you and plan the next steps in your care.


Novant Health is among first in North Carolina and surrounding states to offer an MRI that measures blood flow to the brain. Noninvasive optimal vessel analysis, also known as NOVA, is a fast, accurate way to understand how narrowing arteries in the neck and brain are affecting your health.

NOVA produces 3D images that offer 360-degree views of arteries. The assessment is possible through software enhancements to existing MRI equipment. A personal computer links with the existing system.

Your doctor may recommend NOVA screening if you have one of the following conditions:

  • Headache and dizziness
  • Carotid stenosis (narrowing of a major artery that supplies blood to the brain, neck and face)
  • Cerebral aneurysm (A bulge that forms on a blood vessel)
  • Stroke or transient ischemic attack, also called TIA or mini-stroke (blocked or burst blood vessel in the brain) 

The information the test provides can be valuable before and after treatment because it can show whether blood flow has improved. As with other MRI, the NOVA test is done without incisions. You will not need to drink fluids to enhance imaging.

 Prostate MRI

Imaging tools that allow us to create detailed images of the prostate from outside the body help to improve your healthcare experience as a patient. An additional benefit of a 3T prostate MRI is that it also can result in a more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan. The quality of the images gives your doctor more information to work with.

3T prostate MRI can be used:

  • As a guide for first biopsy for men with rising PSA
  • To evaluate men with rising PSA and negative biopsy by checking for missed tumors and as a guide for repeat biopsies
  • As a guide for biopsy for men who have been treated for prostate cancer and have a rising PSA
  • To evaluate for a recurrent tumor and guide follow-up biopsy for men who have been treated for prostate cancer and have a rising PSA and a negative biopsy
  • Presurgical or preradiation therapy planning

Some of our facilities offer prostate MRI fusion biopsy, also known as UroNav. Performed in an outpatient clinic, this technology fuses the MRI images with the ultrasound to provide direct targeting for the biopsy.

Talk to your urologist to see if you’re a candidate for prostate MRI or fusion biopsy.