MRI Scan Basics: A Guide to the Different Types of MRIs

Exploring Different Types of MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a widely used medical imaging technique that provides detailed images of the internal structures of the body. Over the years, advancements in MRI technology have led to the development of different types of MRIs, each with its own characteristics and applications. Let’s explore some of the common types of MRIs used in medical practice.

1. Traditional Closed MRI

The traditional closed MRI scanner is the most common type of MRI machine. It consists of a large tube or tunnel-shaped structure, in which the patient lies down on a table. This type of MRI is known for producing high-quality images and is suitable for imaging various parts of the body, including the brain, spine, joints, and abdomen. However, some patients may experience claustrophobia or discomfort due to the enclosed space of the machine.

2. Open MRI

Open MRI machines are designed to address the concerns of patients who may feel claustrophobic in a traditional closed MRI scanner. Open MRIs have a more open design, featuring a larger and more spacious gantry. This allows patients to undergo imaging while experiencing less confinement. Open MRIs are particularly useful for individuals who cannot tolerate the narrow space of a closed MRI machine or require imaging in specific positions that are more challenging in traditional MRI scanners.

3. Wide-Bore MRI

Wide-bore MRI machines are an adaptation of closed MRIs that offer a larger bore or opening. While they still maintain the traditional tunnel shape, the bore diameter is increased to provide more room for patients. This helps alleviate feelings of claustrophobia and discomfort for individuals who find the narrow bore of a standard closed MRI machine challenging.

4. High-Field MRI

High-field MRI scanners refer to machines with a higher magnetic field strength, typically ranging from 1.5 to 3 Tesla (T). These machines produce clearer and more detailed images, enabling better visualization of anatomical structures and pathological conditions. High-field MRIs are commonly used for neuroimaging, musculoskeletal imaging, and advanced imaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).

5. Low-Field MRI

Low-field MRI scanners operate at magnetic field strengths lower than 1.5 Tesla. While they may not produce images with the same level of detail as high-field MRIs, low-field MRIs still offer valuable diagnostic information. They are often more accessible and cost-effective, making them suitable for certain clinical situations or facilities with budget constraints.

6. Standing or Upright MRI

Standing or upright MRIs are designed to capture images while the patient is in an upright position, such as sitting or standing. This allows for imaging in weight-bearing positions, which can provide valuable insights into certain musculoskeletal conditions. Upright MRIs are particularly useful for assessing spinal conditions and joint abnormalities that may be influenced by gravity or load-bearing positions.


The various types of MRIs available provide flexibility in accommodating different patient needs and clinical requirements. From traditional closed MRIs to open MRIs, wide-bore MRIs, high-field MRIs, low-field MRIs, and upright MRIs, each type offers distinct advantages and applications. The choice of MRI machine depends on factors such as patient comfort, imaging requirements, anatomical region of interest, and the availability of specific technology at the healthcare facility. Ultimately, the goal is to obtain clear and accurate images to aid in diagnosis and guide appropriate treatment decisions.