A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test uses a magnet and radio waves to produce pictures of the body. A cardiac MRI evaluates the function of the heart and its surrounding blood vessels, helping your physician diagnose heart problems not seen in other tests like a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) or echocardiogram.
Your physician may also order a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), which is a specialized type of MRI that evaluates blood vessels in your heart. This non-invasive diagnostic test allows your physician to evaluate the blood flow through your arteries, as well as to detect brain aneurysms and vascular malformations.
At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, a team of specialized physicians and scientists is developing cardiovascular imaging that provides earlier detection, more accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment of heart and blood vessel diseases. For example, combining traditional treadmill exercise with high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging shows great promise for developing the most accurate and versatile approach to stress testing. Other areas of research involve combining information from multiple areas – such as the condition of vascular structure from a CT scan, and the rate of blood flow from echocardiography – to draw new insights into the best surgical approach for patients with aortic valve disease (aortic regurgitation and stenosis) and aortic aneurysms.
What Is a Cardiac MRI?
A cardiac MRI is a safe, non-invasive test that shows images of the heart and blood vessels from any angle. A cardiac MRI is a powerful tool used to detect scars in your heart caused by coronary artery disease. Along with cardiac stress tests, (exercise stress test, echo stress test, nuclear stress test) the cardiac MRI helps to provide information to your physician regarding coronary artery disease or blockages. It also can discover congenital heart defects and indicate the presence of tumors or other abnormalities of the heart and its surrounding structures.
Prior to the beginning of your cardiac MRI, you will be asked to remove all metal objects from your pockets and body, including jewelry, coins, keys, hearing aids, cell phone and watch. Notify the technician immediately if you could be pregnant, if you have a cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator, any type of implanted device, metal shrapnel or fragments inside your body, or if you are claustrophobic or become anxious in confined spaces.
Once the technologist is ready to begin, a contrast IV will be started in your arm to provide a clearer MRI picture.
During your cardiac MRI, you will be placed on a table that rolls into a large, tube-shaped machine. Your entire body will be inside of the tube for the entirety of the test. The technologist will communicate with you during the test and give you instructions on holding your breath or holding a certain position. It is essential that you stay as still as possible during the test so the pictures are clear. The machine also makes a lot of loud knocking noises during the test—this is completely normal. You will have headphones to aid with communication with the technologists and you can opt to have music during the study.
The Ohio State University Medical Center has an internationally recognized cardiac MRI program. Our cardiologists specialize in congenital heart disease and vascular heart disease imaging, and treatment plans are tailored specifically to each patient.
What to Expect During Your Cardiac MRI
Preparing for Your Procedure
You might be asked to change into a hospital gown before your cardiac MRI begins. Avoid caffeinated foods and drinks, as well as smoking for at least 12 hours before your test. In addition, do not eat or drink anything, other than small sips of water for daily medication, for three hours before your test. Your physician may provide you with oral medication to take prior to your cardiac MRI to help you relax, especially if anxiety or claustrophobia are issues.
During Your Procedure
Follow the technologist’s instructions closely and make sure to hold completely still. Your cardiac MRI should last between 1- 1.5 hours, so please be patient.
After Your Procedure
If you received a sedative to help you relax during the test, you need to have an adult present to take you home. Drink plenty of non-caffeinated liquids after the test to flush the contrast medicine out of your body. Once you are free to go, you can resume normal daily activities. A report of the test will be sent to your physician, who will contact you to discuss your results. If you feel something is not right after your test, please call your physician right away.
Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital
To schedule your appointment, please call 614-293-ROSS or 888-293-ROSS.