What Is a Heart MRI?
An MRI uses
magnets and radio waves to capture images inside your body without making a
surgical incision. It allows your doctor to see the soft tissues in your body,
along with your bones.
An MRI can
be performed on any part of your body. However, a heart or cardiac MRI looks
specifically at your heart and nearby blood vessels.
Unlike a CT
scan, an MRI does not use radiation. It is considered a safer alternative for
pregnant women. If possible, it is best to wait until after the first
Why a Heart MRI Is Done
might order a heart MRI if they believe you are at risk for heart failure or
other less severe heart problems.
MRI is a common test used to assess and diagnose several conditions. Some of
from a heart attack
of the membrane around the heart (pericarditis)
show cross sections of the body, they can also help explain or clarify the
results of other tests, such as CT scans and X-rays.
The Risks of a Heart MRI
There are no
risks for an MRI and few, if any, side effects. The test does not use
radiation, and to date, there have been no documented side effects from the
radio and magnetic waves it uses. Allergic reactions to the dye are rare.
If you have
a pacemaker or any sort of metal implant from previous surgeries or injuries,
you may not be able to receive an MRI because it uses magnets. Be sure to tell
your doctor about any implants you have before the test.
If you are
claustrophobic or have a hard time in enclosed spaces, you may feel
uncomfortable in the MRI machine. Try to remember that there is nothing to
fear. Talk to your doctor about your concerns before the test. They may
prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help with your discomfort.
How to Prepare for a Heart
test, tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker. Depending on your type of
pacemaker, your doctor may suggest another testing method, such as an abdominal CT scan. However, some pacemaker models
can be reprogrammed before an MRI so they aren’t disrupted during the
MRI uses magnets, it can attract metals. You should alert your doctor if you
have any type of metal implant from previous surgeries. These may include:
may need to use a special dye to highlight your heart. This dye, called gadolinium, is administered
through an IV. It’s different from the dye used during a CT scan.
reactions to the dye are rare. However, you should let your doctor know before the
IV is given if you have any concerns or a history of allergic reactions in the
How a Heart MRI Is
machine may look intimidating. It is made up of a bench that slowly glides into
a large tube attached to a doughnut-shaped opening. As long you have followed
your doctor’s instructions to remove all metal, such as body jewelry, watches, and
earrings, you will be completely safe.
technician will ask you to lie back on the bench. You may be given a pillow or
blanket if you have trouble lying on it. The technician will control the
movement of the bench using a remote control from another room. They will be
able to communicate with you through a microphone.
will make loud whirring and thumping noises as it takes pictures of your body.
Many hospitals offer earplugs. Others may provide television shows or
headphones with music to help you pass the time.
technician will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds as the pictures
are being taken. You won’t feel anything during the test because the machine’s magnets
and radio frequencies — similar to FM radios — can’t be felt.
process can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.
After a Heart MRI
test, you won’t have to do anything. You will be able to drive yourself home
and go about your day.
It may take
some time for your doctor to review and interpret the images.
from your heart MRI may be available within a few days. However, comprehensive
results can take up to a week or more. When the results are available, your
doctor will review them with you and discuss any follow-up steps you should