What is a heart MRI?
- A heart magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a noninvasive test that uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves along with a computer to create several detailed images of your heart muscle, chambers, valves and adjacent blood vessels.
- It combines both cross-sectional 2-D images and 3-D images to provide an accurate picture of your heart.
- It can also measure blood flow in the heart and its major blood vessels, to determine how well the heart is functioning.
- Before the procedure, you will be given an IV injection of a contrast dye to help produce clearer images.
- Given that it doesn’t use ionizing radiation, it may be ordered in place of a heart CT for select cases.
Why do I need one?
A heart MRI provides unique advantages when measuring heart function and diagnosing disease processes in the heart. Your cardiology team may order this test for several reasons:
- After a heart attack: A heart MRI is a very powerful test used to evaluate if the heart is weak due to damage to the heart muscle, including scarring.
- Heart inflammation: It is also the test of choice for identifying myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
- Chest pain: This can result from several conditions, such as angina (caused by reduced blood flow to the heart) or pericarditis (caused by inflammation of the pericardium, the outer lining of the heart muscle).
- Abnormal heart size: An enlarged heart may be caused by a number of related conditions, including heart valve issues, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) or other cardiovascular conditions.
- Congenital heart disease: Congenital heart disease means that you were born with one or more defects in the structure of your heart or related blood vessels. This can change blood flow through the heart and lead to complications, some of which may be life-threatening.
- Heart valve issues: The heart has several valves that control the flow of blood between the chambers of your heart. When one of these valves becomes diseased, either through a birth defect or over the course of a lifetime, it can cause serious health issues.
- Aortic aneurysm: The aorta is the largest artery in the body, and it runs from the heart down to the abdomen, supplying blood to the body. When the wall of this blood vessel bulges (an aneurysm) and ruptures, it can cause potentially fatal internal bleeding.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): A medication can be used to increase blood flow to the heart, and a stress test can be performed with MRI to detect blockages in the heart.
Is there anything that would prevent me from having a heart MRI scan?
An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, so you’ll need to remove all metal from your body, such as earrings, necklaces and watches before the procedure.
In addition, if you have any type of metal implants in your body, you should review this with your cardiology team before scheduling your exam. It could mean that you are not eligible to have the scan if the implant is not MRI compatible.
In the past, anyone with a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) could not get an MRI. However, at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, we offer advanced technology that makes this possible.
Other devices that may prevent you from having the test include:
In addition, your physician may recommend an alternative imaging test if you:
- Have had open heart surgery recently
- Have advanced kidney failure
- Are pregnant (especially in the first trimester)
- Have tattoos or permanent makeup (some people have reported discomfort during an MRI, given that certain tattoo pigments contain metal)
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