Images of the heart as it pumps can help doctors assess heart conditions
A cardiac MRI gives doctors a unique opportunity to view images of the heart while it’s beating. Like traditional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnets, radio waves and a computer to take images of the organs and tissues, cardiac MRI is used to examine the structure of the heart throughout its pumping cycle and to diagnose and assess heart conditions more effectively than with other imaging methods.
Conditions that a cardiac MRI can detect
Compared to some other diagnostic tests, cardiac MRI is non-invasive and does not produce any radiation (compared to an X-ray). It can also be helpful in interpreting the results of other tests like CT scans.
Conditions a cardiac MRI can detect and help assess include:
- Heart attack / myocardial viability
- Pericardial disease
- Heart failure
- Heart valve disease
What to expect during a cardiac MRI
You’ve probably seen what an MRI scanner looks like from movies and television. For a cardiac MRI you will lie down on a long bed that glides into a lighted tubular chamber. You may be given something intravenously called a contrast agent (not a dye, as some people are sensitive to dyes), which makes its way to your heart and makes it easier to see details in the images taken.
The entire process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 75 minutes. You are awake and conscious the entire time, but you may sometimes be asked to hold your breath. This is to help ensure the images obtained have no movement and are as clear as possible. A two-way intercom allows you to communicate with the MRI technician as needed.