I understand that normal MRIs use a "coil" which is wrapped around the body and the machine scans only the area where the coil is located and the area is only about 12-16 inches or so in width. So, for example, if the spine needs to be MRI'ed then it is done in several segments, thoracic, lumbar, etc.

However, it seems that some MRI centers offer "full body MRI" that can scan the entire body in one step.

What is the difference between these processes? Is the same type of machine used for both?

  • 2
    I'm not so sure your understanding of how an MRI works is accurate. The table the patient lies on moves, so the MRI can do a continuous scan down the length of the body. There's no segmentation in the resulting images. And a full-body MRI takes upwards of an hour, so it's not like it's a quick process. The patient will have to be lying still for quite a while as the table is slowly moved through the machine.
    – Carey Gregory
    Oct 27, 2020 at 14:36

1 Answer 1


It's indeed the same "big magnet" machine as for normal MRI, but in WB-MRI (ideally) multiple coils are placed on the patient's body, e.g.:

enter image description here

The process does indeed last 30-60 minutes (as Carey noted) as multiple scans passes are made. (More technical details in the article linked.)

There's a bit of history and/or variation in WB-MRI techniques discussed on p. 1110 of another paper. There exists a variant (commercially) called AngioSURF/BodySURF which sacrifices spatial resolution by making the patient glide under the body coil itself (which in that setup is a spine coil). A bit of searching found an image of what that looks like, in one of the papers referenced

enter image description here

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