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Magnetic Resonance Angiograms (MRA)

MR angiography (MRA) is a test that uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer. Doctors use the MRA test to diagnose and treat blood vessel-related diseases. Angiography exams produce pictures of major blood vessels throughout your body.

Doctors perform angiography using:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

  • Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses x-rays to help place catheters into blood vessels.

This exam does not use radiation. In some cases, contrast material is used to visualize the blood vessels better. Gadolinium is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than the iodinated contrast material used in CT angiography.


Who is eligible for a MRA?

An MRA may be used if you have to:

  • Prepare for endovascular intervention or surgery.

  • Detect injury to one or more arteries after trauma.

  • Prepare for a kidney transplant or stent placement.

  • Repair diseased blood vessels by implanting stents or evaluating a stent after implantation.

  • Evaluate arteries feeding a tumor before surgery or other procedures such as chemo-embolization or selective internal radiation therapy.

MRA is also used as a substitute for CT angiography when iodinated contrast material cannot be used.


What conditions can be diagnosed by a MRA?

Doctors use MRA to diagnose:

  • Coronary artery disease.

  • Congenital heart and vessel defects.

  • Disease in the arteries to the kidneys.

  • Evaluate stenosis and obstruction of vessels.

  • Arterial disease, especially in patients with a family history of it.

  • Dissection or splitting in the aorta in the chest or abdomen

  • Aneurysms, in the aorta, both in the chest and abdomen or in other arteries.

  • Atherosclerosis (plaque) disease in the neck's carotid artery, which may limit blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.

  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM)—an abnormal connection between blood vessels—inside the brain or elsewhere.

  • Injury to one or more arteries in the neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, or limbs after trauma.

  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clots, such as those traveling from leg veins) or pulmonary AVMs.

How do I prepare for a MRA?

Tell your doctor about any health problems, recent surgeries, allergies, and whether you are pregnant.

Pregnant women should not have an MRI in the first trimester unless the benefit of the exam clearly outweighs any potential risks. Pregnant women should also not receive gadolinium contrast unless necessary.

Always tell the technologist if you have any devices or metal in your body. The magnetic field is not harmful, but it may cause some medical devices to malfunction. Most orthopedic implants will be fine.

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, take your regular medications as usual.

Leave jewelry at home and wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may be asked to wear a gown.

If you fear close spaces or anxiety, consider asking your doctor for a mild sedative before the exam.

Infants and young children often require sedation or anesthesia to complete an MRI exam without moving.


What should I expect during my MRA?

This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis.

  • You will be positioned on the moveable exam table. Straps and bolsters may be used to help you stay still and maintain your position.

  • Devices that contain coils capable of sending and receiving radio waves may be placed around or next to the area of the body being scanned.

  • MRA exams generally include multiple runs (sequences), some of which may last several minutes.

  • If a contrast material is used, a doctor, nurse, or technologist will insert an intravenous catheter (IV line) into a vein in your hand or arm used to inject the contrast material.

  • You will be placed into the magnet of the MRA unit. The technologist will perform the exam while working at a computer outside of the room.

  • If a contrast material is used during the exam, it will be injected into the intravenous line (IV) after an initial series of scans. More images will be taken during or following the injection.

  • When the exam is complete, you may be asked to wait while the radiologist checks the images if more are needed.

  • Your IV line will be removed after the exam is over.

The entire examination is usually completed in approximately 60 minutes once imaging has started.


Why choose Presbyterian for a MRA?

Presbyterian’s Heart and Vascular team has many different options to help you manage your heart condition. The team performs various diagnostic tests and procedures to help form an accurate diagnosis and create individualized treatment plans for your heart health needs. Depending on the type of heart condition you have and its underlying cause, the team can recommend a wide variety of treatment options, including lifestyle modifications, medications, and procedures. Our cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons work closely together for cases in which surgery is the best treatment option. We also offer a customized cardiac rehabilitation program at our Healthplex, where clinically appropriate, which can improve your endurance and exercise tolerance, as well as improve heart-related symptoms. Your cardiologist will work with the rehabilitation team to create a plan that will be tailored to your individual health needs.