What is an MRE Test and How Does it Work?

A magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) test is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect and measure the stiffness and elasticity of organs and tissues in the body.

MRE is an advanced technique that is used in diagnosing various medical conditions such as liver fibrosis, heart diseases, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Unlike other diagnostic imaging methods, MRE can easily detect and measure the severity of the medical condition with higher accuracy, which makes it the preferred choice for physicians and medical professionals all over the world.

How Does an MRE Test Work?

The MRE technique uses special software to create vibrations within the target organ or tissue while an MRI machine captures images. These mechanical waves or vibrations are produced by a special pad placed on the skin above the organ or tissue being investigated. The vibrations flow through the organ or tissue, and as they do, they create shear waves, which can be detected by the MRI machine.

The shear waves travel faster through stiff and less elastic tissues and slower through softer and more elastic tissues. This information is then processed to generate a ‘map’ that indicates the stiffness of tissues in the target region. These mappings are then interpreted by medical professionals to diagnose the medical condition and plan the appropriate treatment regime.

What Happens During an MRE Test?

During an MRE test, you will be asked to lie down on an examination table, where a technician will place a special pad or device on your skin over the organ or tissue to be investigated. The pad produces mechanical vibrations, and an MRI machine records images of the vibrations that travel through your body.

The technician may ask you to hold your breath or take a deep breath during the test to prevent any movement that could cause the images to be blurred. The examination typically takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete, depending on the area of the body being imaged.

What are the Benefits of an MRE Test?

MRE testing offers an array of benefits over traditional diagnostic imaging techniques such as CT scans and ultrasound. Some of the significant benefits include:

  • Non-invasive, painless, and safe method of medical image diagnostics;
  • More accurate and precise medical diagnosis as the technique can detect various medical conditions in their early stages;
  • Faster diagnosis and treatment planning;
  • High patient compliance as there are no complicated procedures involved that could deter the patient from taking the test.

What are the Risks Associated with an MRE Test?

While MRE is a relatively safe procedure with very few risks, it may not be suitable for some people. MRE uses a strong magnetic field, which can cause potential problems for some people with certain metallic implants such as cochlear implants, pacemakers.

If you’re pregnant or an elderly person with breathing difficulties, it’s better to avoid MRE. The movement of the abdomen during breathing can interfere with image quality, and the loud clacking sounds emitted by the MRI machine may disturb the fetus.

When is an MRE Test Useful?

MRE tests are useful in diagnosing various medical conditions such as:

  • Liver and pancreatic disorders, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), hepatic steatosis, and hepatitis;
  • Brain disorders, such as stroke, brain tumors, and multiple sclerosis (MS);
  • Cardiac disorders, such as myocardial fibrosis;
  • Respiratory disorders, such as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and lung cancer;
  • Prostate cancer and breast cancer.

What are the Limitations of MRE Testing?

While MRE testing offers numerous benefits, it is still considered to be a relatively new technique, and there are some limitations to its use. These limitations include:

  • Not suitable for use in patients with metallic implants such as pacemakers;
  • May not show the difference between benign and malignant tumors, which may require further evaluation;
  • May not be able to detect the early stages of some medical conditions;
  • May require additional confirmatory tests to diagnose medical conditions accurately.


Magnetic resonance elastography is an advanced non-invasive medical imaging technique that can detect and measure the elasticity and stiffness of organs and tissues in the body. MRE testing provides a faster, more precise, and accurate diagnosis of various medical conditions.

Although there are some limitations to the use of MRE testing, it is an invaluable tool for medical professionals in diagnosing various medical conditions at earlier stages and enhancing treatment planning.

Common Questions – Answers

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about MRE testing:

  1. How long does an MRE test take?
  2. Typically, an MRE test takes between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the area of the body being imaged.

  3. Will MRE testing hurt?
  4. No, MRE testing is a non-invasive and painless procedure. You may experience some vibration or noise, but it is not painful.

  5. What should I wear for an MRE test?
  6. It is recommended that you wear comfortable, loose clothing during the MRE test. Avoid wearing any metallic objects. The technician may also ask you to change into a hospital gown for the test.

  7. What is the cost of an MRE test?
  8. The cost of an MRE test varies depending on the location and the medical facility where the test is conducted. It can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.

  9. What medical conditions can an MRE test diagnose?
  10. MRE tests can diagnose various medical conditions such as liver fibrosis, hepatitis, brain tumors, cardiac disorders, and different types of cancer.


  • Atay, S. M., & Kaya, M. (2015). Magnetic Resonance Elastography: Principles, Technique, and Clinical Applications. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 41(2), 296-314.
  • Yin, M. (2017). Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE): A Review. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 45(2), 322-337.
  • Manduca, A. (2010). Magnetic Resonance Elastography: Physical Background and Medical Applications. Reviews in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, 22(3/4), 143-167.

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