A heart or cardiac MRI is an imaging scan that looks specifically at your heart and nearby blood vessels with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use magnets and radio waves to capture images inside your body without making a surgical incision. Cardiac MRI is used to detect or monitor cardiac disease and to evaluate the heart’s anatomy and function in patients. Cardiac MRI does not use radiation to produce images, and many doctors prefer it to provide the best images of the heart for certain conditions.
Why are heart MRIs performed?
Your doctor might order a heart MRI if they believe you’re at risk for heart failure or other less severe heart problems. This scan can show your heart’s structure (muscle, valves, and chambers) and how well blood flows through your heart and major vessels.
A cardiac MRI is a common test used to assess and diagnose several conditions. Some of these include:
- congenital heart defects
- coronary heart disease
- damage from a heart attack
- heart failure
- heart valve defects
- inflammation of the membrane around the heart (pericarditis)
How is a heart MRI performed?
An MRI machine may look intimidating but the process is fairly straightforward. The MRI scanner is made up of a bench that slowly glides into a large tube attached to a doughnut-shaped opening. As long as you have followed your doctor’s instructions to remove all metal, such as body jewelry, watches, and earrings, you will be completely safe.
The 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.
The machine 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.
The 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.
The entire process can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.
Risks of a heart MRI
Before your MRI scan, it is important to tell your doctor about any health problems, recent surgeries or allergies, and whether there’s a possibility you are pregnant. The magnetic field is not harmful, but it may cause some medical devices to malfunction. Most orthopedic implants pose no risk, but you should always tell the MRI technologist if you have any devices or metal in your body. Guidelines about eating and drinking before your exam vary between facilities.
Your doctor may need to use a special dye to highlight your heart. This dye is an MRI contrast agent which is administered through an IV. It’s different from the contrast dye used during a CT scan but both are useful in producing clearer pictures of the body. Allergic reactions to contrast material are rare and usually mild but it is important to let your doctor or technician know as soon as you notice them.
If you are MRI 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 or suggest other methods to relax.
To book a scan, visit us at Medmo.com. Medmo helps people schedule radiology imaging tests – such as MRI, CT scans, PET, and more – at nearby accredited centers and identify the payment solution that works best for them.