What is a Cardiac MRI?

N. Madison

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that provides images of a patient's heart as well as its blood vessels while it is beating. The images obtained from a cardiac MRI can be still or moving. Typically, cardiac MRIs are used to gauge how well the heart is functioning, to detect structural abnormalities, and to determine the best way to treat those who have heart-related health problems.

A cardiac MRI may prove helpful for assessing the damage left behind after a person suffers a heart attack.
A cardiac MRI may prove helpful for assessing the damage left behind after a person suffers a heart attack.

A cardiac MRI is a non-invasive test that produces images of the heart in a safe, pain-free way. This test combines the technology of computers with magnets and radio waves to obtain images of a patient’s heart. This type of diagnostic imaging differs from tests such as x-rays in the fact that is not associated with any increased risk of cancer.

An MRI machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of internal organs and bone structures.
An MRI machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of internal organs and bone structures.

Medical professionals may use a cardiac MRI to help them in diagnosing a wide range of diseases and problems that affect the heart. For example, a doctor may order a cardiac MRI to help him in diagnosing coronary artery disease, heart failure, and inflammation of the membrane around the patient’s heart. It may also prove helpful for assessing the damage left behind after a person suffers a heart attack. A patient may also undergo a cardiac MRI if his doctor suspects there are problems with his heart valves or if he has tumors that affect his heart. Additionally, this type of diagnostic imaging is often used in cases in which the patient has a heart defect that has been present since birth.

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One of the reasons cardiac MRI scans are so useful in diagnosing heart diseases and conditions is that they can capture images of the heart while it is beating. For example, a doctor may use it to see how the blood is flowing through the patient’s arteries and determine whether or not a valve is functioning as it should. Furthermore, this test can provide the doctor with two types of images of the patient’s heart: still and moving. In some cases, doctors may also use contrast dyes for this type of imaging in order to better see certain parts of the patient’s heart.

Sometimes medical professionals use cardiac MRIs to confirm the information they’ve learned about a patient’s heart via other types of diagnostic image testing. In other cases, a cardiac MRI may be used as an alternative to invasive tests. Often, these scans are used to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation during the diagnostic process.

Radiologists can see heart damage and abnormalities using an MRI scanner.
Radiologists can see heart damage and abnormalities using an MRI scanner.

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