Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to create a clear and concise image of a patient’s heart in motion, without using x-ray radiation. It is used to detect or monitor heart problems such as infections or inflammatory conditions, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, or to evaluate the effects of surgery. An MRI is also commonly used to clarify unclear findings from echocardiography.
What can a patient expect during a cardiac MRI?
Patients should know that a cardiac MRI is painless and harmless. The patient will be asked to remove any clothing jewelry, or other items that may interfere with the procedure. The MRI machine will be located in a special room that prevents radio waves from disrupting the machine. It also prevents the MRI machine's strong magnetic fields from disrupting other equipment.
The patient will be asked to lie on their back on a sliding table and asked to stay as still as possible. The technician will control the machine from the next room and will be able to communicate with you through a microphone. Sometimes, a contrast agent is used – injected into a vein in the arm through a needle. This highlights the blood vessels or heart in the pictures. Cardiac MRI typically lasts between 30 and 90 minutes.