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Heart Scan: Cardiac MRI

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Cardiac MRI is wonderful for assessing patients with heart disease. Most tests are performed in 30 minutes. MRI does not use ionizing radiation. Many studies don’t even require an injection. Others (such as perfusion and viability imaging) require a small injection of gadolinium contrast.

Is There One Kind Of Cardiac MRI Exam?
No. Cardiac MRI examinations are tailored to fit the needs of the individual patient. Cardiac MRI can assess the heart in a number of different ways, including:
  • Cardiac Structure and Function
  • Myocardial Perfusion
  • Myocardial Viability and Scar
  • Valvular Function
  • Blood Flow and Intracardiac Shunts
  • Coronary Artery Anatomy
A cardiac MRI exam may consist of evaluating one or more of the above categories, depending on the needs of the patient.

I May Have A Problem With My Heart Valve. Can Cardiac MRI Help Me?
Yes. MRI is an excellent test for assessing patients with valve disease. For example, in patients with leaky valves (e.g. mitral or aortic regurgitation), MRI can accurately quantify the amount of the leak. In patients with narrowed valves (e.g. aortic stenosis), MRI can directly visualize the valve and quantify the extent of its narrowing. MRI is also excellent for quantifying how valve disease affects the size and function of the various cardiac chambers. MRI is an important consideration for any patient that is being seen regularly by a physician for valve disease. In some patients, cardiac MRI allows a patient to avoid a more invasive procedure such as cardiac catheterization, transesophageal echo, or cardiac surgery.

I May Have Chest Pain From Arterial Blockages. Can Cardiac MRI Help Me?
Yes. There are many potential causes of chest pain. Common causes include a strained muscle, a pinched nerve, and indigestion. But, probably the most important cause of chest pain is heart muscle that is not receiving enough blood flow due to arterial blockages. Cardiac MRI stress testing can distinguish those patients who have a cardiac cause of chest pain from those who have noncardiac causes. It can also assess how much of the heart muscle is at risk for being damaged. The most common type of cardiac MRI stress test is a perfusion MRI. It can be performed in 30 minutes and does not use ioinzing radiation like Thallium, SPECT, or CT scans.

If I Have A Problem With My Heart Being Too Big Or Not Squeezing Well Enough. Can Cardiac MRI Help Me?
Yes. Most experts agree that cardiac MRI is the gold standard for evaluating the structure of the heart and quantifying its size and function. Its accuracy derives from the clarity of its images as well as from its 3-dimensional nature. Cardiac MRI can confirm or disprove suspected abnormalities. When there is an abnormality, cardiac MRI can usually quantify it better than echocardiography. MRI can be used to determine the best type of treatment and to optimize the timing of therapy. The MRI results often serve as an accurate baseline for comparison to assess for disease progression and can be used to judge the effectiveness of medical treatment.  Sometimes MRI can also specify the cause of the problem.