Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)/ Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

Why is the doctor performing this procedure?

To obtain very clear and detailed three-dimensional images of the heart and vascular system.

What is the procedure?

Magnetic resonance technology uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of various body part and organs. The procedure is painless and does not require use of radiation. A magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the heart can:

  • Determine the extent of damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack
  • Evaluate the extent of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
  • Identify blood clots (thrombus or embolus)
  • Evaluate an aneurysm
  • Identify cardiomyopathy
  • Diagnose congenital (present at birth) heart defects
  • Evaluate pericarditis
  • Identify a heart tumor (for example, an atrial myxoma)

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) uses magnetic resonance technology to visualize blood vessels and identify plaques (atherosclerosis) that narrow or block the blood flow in cerebral arteries (which can lead to stroke) and in coronary arteries (which can lead to heart attack), without the use of a more invasive catheter-based procedure.

Before an MRI or MRA, the patient must remove all jewelry, accessories, hearing aids, and anything else containing metal. Metallic objects will distort the MRI image, and the magnetic field created during the procedure may damage electronic devices made of metal. Sticky patches called electrodes, each with a wire, are attached to the skin of the chest. Each wire is connected to an ECG machine to monitor the heart's electrical activity throughout the procedure. An intravenous (IV) line may be placed to inject drugs during special MRI exams. These special MRI exams allow the identification of damaged heart muscles, as well as potentially healthy muscle.

The patient lies down on a moveable table that is part of the MRI machine. The table slides into the opening of the MRI machine, which is essentially a large magnet with an opening for the table. Once inside the machine and its magnetic field, radio waves will be directed at the body. The patient does not feel anything, and the machine does not move around the patient, but machine sounds will be heard. The patient must lie as still as possible during the entire procedure. If a patient has a history of claustrophobia, a sedative may be given first.

Where is the procedure performed?

In a MRI Center.

How long does this procedure take?

An MRI or MRA usually takes thirty minutes to 2 hours.