Cardiac MRI and What to Expect After it

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jun 20, 2014
Quick Bites

  • Can provide still and moving pictures of heart.
  • Completely safe and very accurate.
  • No use of dyes and tools.
  • Very helpful in determining course of treatment.

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a noninvasive and effective technique that creates detailed scans of the organs and tissue, without any risk. Since it is a noninvasive test method, it doesn't involve any discomfort or pain. Cardiac MRI is a safe test that allows cardiologists to see the heart in detail. It provides more detailed scans of the heart than any other imaging technique that can be used to scan the heart.

cardiac MRI

Cardiac MRI is a fast and accurate test to detect areas of the heart that aren't functioning properly, are scarred or have poor blood supply. It can also show blockages in the coronary arteries. A cardiac MRI can provide more and accurate information about heart valve defects or disease. The test can be very helpful for doctors in determining the course of treatment for a patient.

Inside The Machine

Cardiac MRI test involves a MRI machine that uses radio waves and magnets to scan the heart of the patient lying inside it. Using the magnets and the radio waves an inbuilt computer produces detailed scans of the heart. Since cardiac MRI doesn't use any ionizing radiation, it doesn't pose any risk of side effects. Unlike other imaging tests there is no risk of cancer with cardiac MRI tests. However, in order to get a clear and useful picture, it is very important to avoid any sort of movement while the test is running.

inside the machine

Why Take The Test?

A Cardiac MRI test is so effective that it can produce both still and moving pictures of the heart and major blood vessels. These high quality pictures can help a doctor decide the best treatment for a patient as well as determine the course of the treatment. Usually cardiac MRI is used to get detailed pictures of the beating heart and its structure. The test is used to diagnose and assess conditions and diseases such as cardiac tumors, coronary heart disease, heart failure, damaged heart, congenital heart defects and pericarditis.

Usually the MRI scan is done after other tests as it also help understand the results from previous tests. Although the cardiac MRI is done the usual simple way, however sometimes doctors may inject a contract agent like gadolinium into the vein of the patient. The contract agent travels to the heart and allows getting more detailed pictures of the heart and the blood vessels. Doctors may also use sedatives to keep a patients from moving inside the machine as it may affects the clarity of the pictures. It's very important for the patient to stay still while the MRI scan is running.

What to Expect After It?

The cardiac MRI test is safe noninvasive test, so there is no risk of side effects. However, there is a small chance of minor skin irritation. If the patient was given sedatives during the MRI test, doctors ask the family to look after the patient and carefully take them home. Doctors will also ask you not you drive until the effects of the sedatives wear off. If the patient wasn't given sedatives, there is no special care required after the test.

MRI test

Even if doctors recommend a lifestyle change or some medications, it would be because of the disease or condition they had been testing for, not because of the test. One can immediately go back to their normal life and routine after the test. However, if the person experiences nausea, rash, itching or any other symptoms due to contrast agent, it is advisable to immediately inform the doctors. Although such after effects are minor and less common, it is always better to notify the doctors or the lab staff.

The results of the cardiac MRI test are usually sent to the doctors directly and aren't available for you to collect right after the test. The doctor will analyze and discuss the MRI results with you. A cardiac MRI is usually followed by other follow-up examinations to confirm the results of the previous tests and to monitor the course of treatment required.

Image Courtesy: Getty Images

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