Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is a safe, noninvasive and painless way to assess heart structure and function. Using powerful magnetic and radio waves, cardiac MRI technology creates clear anatomical pictures on a computer screen for easy viewing and analysis. Unlike CT scans or standard x-rays, MRI does not use radiation and therefore eliminates any potential cancer risk.
MRI exams are ideal for assessing images of the beating heart, creating both moving and static pictures. The images are commonly used in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease – key in preventing potential heart attacks. MRI is also used to assess damage after a heart attack, heart valve problems, tumors and congenital heart defects. MRI exams can often provide physicians with information about your heart that cannot be gleaned from standard x-rays, EKG, echocardiograms and other diagnostic tests.
Although painless and noninvasive, MRI testing can be somewhat uncomfortable for some patients. During the procedure, the MRI scanner can make loud buzzing, clicking and banging noises. Earplugs or earphones with music can help eliminate the noise. Because the patient is placed within a narrow tube-like compartment, some patients may experience feelings of anxiety or claustrophobia. However, if patients notify the MRI facility in advance and bring someone to drive them home after the test, valium or similar medications can be given to help alleviate the claustrophobia. Patients need to remain still and at times will be told to hold their breath for short periods to get the clearest images possible.
Although MRI has traditionally not been recommended for those with pacemakers and defibrillators, recent research suggests that with careful monitoring, even patients with these devices can undergo MRI scanning if there is a strong indication to perform one, and if they are carefully monitored before, during and after the scan. Heart patients with such implants as stents, occluders, coils and heart valves shouldn’t have a problem undergoing an MRI scan.
MRI is not for women in their first trimester of pregnancy. Patients with the following should call ahead to make sure they can have an MRI:
- cochlear implants
- infusion pumps
- recent pill camera testing
- cerebral aneurysm clips
- tissue expanders
- metal workers who might have fragments in their eyes