Heart MRI for detailed examination of the heart muscle

Heart MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer guided imaging to create pictures of the heart and surrounding tissue. It is highly effective, painless, noninvasive and very safe imaging test which possess no risk of ionizing radiation, unlike X-ray.

Magnetic resonance imaging is also superior to ultrasound, CT and X-ray since it produced much clearer and detailed images. However, it does have its downsides. The patient has to be able to remain perfectly still, during the test, in order for high quality images to be produced. If you are anxious, restless or jittery, you might be given a sedative which will help you relax.

Cardiac MRI is not advised for people with some kind metal implants such as pacemakers, heart valve implants, metal plates, bolts or nerve stimulators due to magnets and radio-frequency waves transmitted during the test. Also, very large people may not fit into the device while other may be claustrophobic.


It can be used to:

  • Get clear view of the heart muscle
  • Estimate its size, function or build of plaque on the walls of coronary arteries
  • Detect tumors in the heart
  • Diagnose wide variety of heart diseases, including infection or inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Detect poor blood flow through the heart muscle or scarring of the heart tissue due to heart attack

Besides assessing heart function, cardiac MRI can also be used to evaluate the length of recovery and to monitor the condition of individual with heart disease, especially if the patient had some kind of heart surgery. It can even help the doctors decide how to approach the patient and treat the disease, by getting better look of the heart, its valves and structures such as pericardium as well as coronary arteries.


You should leave necklaces, earrings, rist watches or any kind of jewelry, at home. Also, piercings, hairpins, wallets, credit cards, eyeglasses as well as any other unnecessary accessories with metal in it, aren't allowed in the exam room. Wear some loose fitting clothes which doesn't have any metal ornaments on it. If you are a women, wear a bra that can be easily removed prior to the exam, if needed, without metal wire in it. However, you might be given a gown during the exam, if the clothes is not satisfactory.

Before heart MRI, you should tell your doctor and radiologist about any diseases, allergies, aches as well as medications or supplements you might be taking. You will also be told if any special diet changes should be required, among other. If you are a women and you are pregnant then the doctor might decide to postpone cardiac MRI.

A contrast material, such as gadolinium, might be injected into a vein during the test, in order to get a better image of the heart and coronary arteries. However, individuals with kidney disease or some other serious health problem, may not be able to recieve contrast agent. The test can be preformed without it but the images probably won't be that clear.

Since, you will be exposed to magnetic field, it is crucial to tell radiologist about defibrillators, pacemakers, pins, screws, plates, stents or any other implants you might have. If you have a tattoo, the ink might contain iron but this is rarely a problem.


First, you will lie down on a moveable examination table after which small patches will be attached on your chest. If you have hairy chest, some of it might be shaved, in order to properly attach ECG patches. In case doctor plans to use contrast agent during the test, the nurse will insert an intravenous (IV) line into your hand or arm, through the vein. When the contrast material is injected, you may experience strange sensations such as chilliness for a minute or two as well as metalic taste in your mouth.

Additional straps may be used to help you stay still during heart MRI as well as additional monitoring or diagnostic equipment which can be placed on your chest. After everything is set, you will be moved into the magnet. The staff will leave the room while procedure is being performed. The device can be loud when the coils that generate radiofrequency pulses, responsible for creating images, are activated. However, you can request earplugs, headphones or listen to music during exam, in order to minimize the noise.

It is normal for the area of your body being imaged to feel slightly warm but if it becomes unbearable, notify the radiologist. You can do this thanks to two way intercom because of which radiologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you, during cardiac MRI. If you have a tattoo which is made from metal containing ink, it may get a little hot.

Try to stay calm as much as you can, while the images are being recorded. You may be asked to hold your breath a few times, so that breathing doesn't affect the quality of the images. Whole process lasts from 20 to 90 minutes.


There is a small chance of skin irritation and bruising at the site of the IV tube insertion but it ain't dangerous. If you recieved sedation then someone should take you home. You are not allowed to drive a car, until the effect of drugs wears off because of which you should bring a friend or family member which has driving license.

If you didn't recieve sedation, no recovery period is necessary. You can continue with your daily activites, without limitations when it comes to food and drinks. However, if you experience nausea, rash, itching or any other symptoms due to contrast agent, notify the staff.

The results aren't available right away. They will be sent to your doctor which will discuss the results of heart MRI scan with you.

Follow-up examinations are standard practise after MRI whether there is a need to confirm the results of previous test or to monitor the condition. If required, your doctor will explain the need for additional tests.

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