What is Heart MRI?
A heart MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a cardiac MRI is a painless radiology exam. This is performed to examine the heart and its surrounding areas in a non-invasive manner. In this scan, multiple images of the blood vessels and soft tissues of the heart are generated using radio waves and a strong magnetic field.
The heart MRI helps doctors in visualizing the heart’s structure (the chambers, muscle, and valves of the heart), assessing how well the heart is pumping blood, determining the damage caused by a heart attack or progressive heart disease, and detecting plaque and blockages in the blood vessels.
The MRI of the heart may be done with or without the use of contrast material (dye) that is injected into the veins. When the contrast material is used, the blocked blood vessels are seen more clearly in the scanned images.
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Who Should Get a Heart MRI?
Your doctor may recommend a heart MRI if you have one or more of the following symptoms or ailments:
- Severe chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained fatigue
- Family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Obesity and physical inactivity
- Valvular heart disease (characterized by a defect in one of the four heart valves)
- Congenital heart disease (problems with the heart’s structure and function that is present at birth)
What is the Purpose of a Heart MRI?
Your doctor may recommend an MRI of the heart to:
- Evaluate unusual chest pain with uncommon symptoms.
- Evaluate the structure and function of the heart valves, heart chambers, and blood flow through major vessels in children and adults with heart disease present at birth (congenital heart disease).
- Diagnose various heart or blood vessel disorders such as infections, tumors, and inflammatory conditions.
- Evaluate swelling and irritation of the thin, sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart (pericardium).
- Diagnose damage to the heart after a heart attack.
- Diagnose problems in the heart’s main artery (aorta) such as an aneurysm (bulge), tear, or narrowing.
- Detect heart muscle diseases such as enlargement of the heart, heart failure, and abnormal growths such as cancerous tumors.
- Check for reduced blood flow in the heart muscle that may cause chest pain (angina)
- Assess the effects of heart surgery, especially in patients with congenital heart disease.
Your doctor may also ask you to take the Heart Ultrasound (Echocardiogram) to confirm the diagnosis for abnormalities in the heart. Your doctor may even recommend a Cardiac Risk Blood Test Panel to evaluate your risk for heart disease or stroke. Depending on the results, your doctor will confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.
How Is a Heart MRI Performed?
- Before starting the MRI of the heart, you will have to remove all the metal objects on your body, including eyeglasses, jewelry, hairpins, and dentures.
- A technologist will then ask you to lie down on the MRI scanner table and will place sticky patches on your chest. These patches will be connected to an ECG (electrocardiogram) machine that will monitor your heart rate.
- The MRI scanner table will then move slowly through a doughnut-shaped MRI machine.
- Once you are inside the MRI machine, multiple images of your heart will be taken that will be displayed on a monitor.
- During the scan, the technologist will ask you to hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds at certain points. Make sure you don’t move during the scan as any movement can blur the images.
In case, your doctor has asked you to take a heart MRI with contrast, then contrast dye will be injected into your vein shortly after an initial series of scans. Additional images will be taken following the injection.
How Long Does a Heart MRI Take?
An MRI of the heart is usually completed between 30 to 45 minutes.
Is Radiation Involved in a Heart MRI?
No. An MRI is a painless imaging test that doesn’t use radiation.
Are There Any Risks in Taking a Heart MRI?
- People who have implants such as cardiac pacemaker, coronary stent, orthopedic rods, and plates, which contain metal, may face certain risks. The magnets used in an MRI can make implanted pins or screws move in the body or cause problems with pacemakers.
- Some people might also have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used in an MRI.
When Will I Receive My Results?
Once the heart MRI is completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.
How Should I Prepare for a Heart MRI?
Please refer to the simple preparation guidelines given below or consult with your doctor or radiology center where you are being treated. Do not forget to bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.