Magnetic Resonance Angiography
(MRA)En Español (Spanish Version)
MRA is a study of the blood vessels using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) . MRA produces very detailed two- and three-dimensional images of the blood vessels and other parts of the body by using radio waves in a strong magnetic field instead of using x-rays.
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Parts of the Body Involved
This test be used to view blood vessels throughout the body. It is most commonly used to study the:
- Brain and neck
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to help doctors identify diseased, narrowed, enlarged, and blocked blood vessels and locate where internal bleeding may be occurring. Some specific uses include:
In some cases, mostly when views of the arteries in the heart and neck are needed, MRA will be used instead of catheter angiography or CT angiography.
MRA does not require using x-rays , inserting a catheter, or injecting contrast material to make the blood vessels visible. A contrast material may be used to get a clearer image, but it has a much lower risk of reactions compared to the contrast material used in catheter and CT angiography.
People with a family history of aneurysm can be screened with MRA to see if they have this disorder before they show any symptoms. If detected and treated early, serious or fatal bleeding may be avoided.
Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure
- A pacemaker, metal implant, and other metal objects in the body may be affected by MRI and make it hard to get high-quality images.
- People may experience claustrophobia , which, if significant, can be treated with a sedative. If claustrophobia is severe and not relieved with a sedative, other imaging options may need to be called into service. It may also help to have the MRI done in an “open” MRI machine, which is larger than a regular MRI machine and usually open on the sides. However, the images may not be as good.
What to Expect
Prior to the Procedure
At your appointment before the test, your doctor will likely ask about:
- Your medical history
- Medications you take
- Medication allergies
- Whether you have any metal objects in your body
- Whether you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
Your doctor will also take an x-ray if there is any question about whether there are any metal objects in your body.
In the days before your procedure:
- In most cases, you can eat and drink normally. Although, if you will be given a sedative, you should not eat or drink for four hours before the exam.
- If you will be taking a sedative, arrange for a ride to and from the exam.
At the healthcare facility:
- A healthcare professional will explain the procedure and answer any questions you may have.
- You will remove your clothes and put on a gown or robe.
- You will remove all jewelry, hair clips, dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and other items that could affect the images.
Description of the Procedure
You will lie on a special table that is moved inside the opening of the MRI machine. Most MRIs consist of two to six sets of images. Each one takes between 2 to 15 minutes. You will need to lie very still while the images are being taken. When the images are being taken, the technologist will leave the room, but you can speak with him or her through an intercom. The technologist may ask you to hold your breath briefly.
If a contrast material (usually gadolinium) is needed, a small IV needle is inserted into your hand or arm before you are moved into the MRI machine. The contrast material is injected during one of the sets of images.
The images are checked. If needed, some are repeated.
How Long Will It Take?
40 to 90 minutes
Will It Hurt?
The procedure is painless. However, you may experience the following:
- Loud knocking or tapping noises from the machine, earplugs or music may help.
- A bit of claustrophobia during the times when the magnet comes very close to your face, a mild sedative may help.
- If contrast material is used, a brief stinging when the IV needle is inserted
In very rare cases, there may be an allergic reaction to the contrast material, if one is used.
Average Hospital Stay
If you took a sedative, do not drive or operate machinery until it wears off completely.
The radiologist (doctor who specializes in working with medical images) will examine the images and report the findings to your personal doctor. Your doctor will discuss the findings with you and any treatment needed.
American Heart Association
Health Sciences Centre
MR angiography (MRA). RadiologyInfo website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org . Accessed May 7, 2003.
MRI. HeartCenterOnline website. Available at: http://www.heartcenteronline.com . Accessed June 5, 2003.
University of Iowa Department of Radiology. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Available at: http://www.vh.org/adult/patient/radiology/magneticresonanceimaging/index.html . Accessed June 9, 2003.
Yucel EK, Anderson CM, Edelman RR, et al. Magnetic resonance angiography: update on applications for extracranial arteries. Circulation . 1999;100:2284.
Last reviewed November 2007 by J. Peter Oettgen, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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