DEFINITION: A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) is an imaging test used to look at the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle. MRAs don't require the recovery time needed with traditional angiograms. Unlike a traditional coronary angiogram, an MRA relies on a powerful MRI machine to produce images of your heart and heart vessels. In many cases, MRA can provide information that can't be obtained from an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan.

An MRA is commonly performed to look for:

  • A bulge (aneurysm), clot or the buildup of fat and calcium deposits (stenosis caused by plaque) in the blood vessels leading to the brain
  • An aneurysm or tear (dissection) in the aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body
  • Narrowing (stenosis) of the blood vessels leading to the lungs, kidneys or legs

WHAT TO EXPECT: You will be asked to change into a gown and to remove jewelry, hairpins eyeglasses, watches, wigs, dentures, hearing aids and underwire bras, as these items are a safety concern while around magnetic equipment.

For your scan, you will be asked to lie down on a movable table that slides into the opening of the tunnel. During the scan, the internal part of the magnet produces repetitive tapping and other noises. Earplugsor music may be provided to help block the noise. You will be instructed to breathe normally but to lie as still as possible, as movement can blur the resulting images. A technologist will monitor you closely from another room and you will be able to communicate with him or her, should you require immediate assistance. An MRA typically lasts less than an hour.

The technician might ask you to hold your breath for 10-15 seconds at a time while taking pictures of your heart. A contrast agent, such as gadolinium, might be used to highlight your blood vessels or heart in the pictures.

IF YOUR EXAM REQUIRES CONTRAST: Contrast will be administered to you during your scan. You may feel a cool sensation during the injection and discomfort when the needle is inserted. Gadolinium, the contrast most often used, does not contain iodine.

HOW TO PREPARE: Before an MRA scan, eat normally and continue to take your usual medications, unless otherwise instructed. If you are worried about feeling claustrophobic during the scan, talk to your doctor beforehand, as he or she may be able to prescribe medication to ease your anxiety.

RESULTS: One of our specially trained radiologists will analyze the images from your scan and report the findings to your referring physician or primary care doctor. Your doctor will then discuss any important findings and next steps with you.

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