What is Cardiac MRI?
Cardiac MRI is an imaging study that is used to visualize the anatomy of the heart and the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bones, and other internal body structures. Unlike other imaging techniques such as X-rays and CT scans, MRI does not expose patients to the potentially harmful effects of radiation.
Cardiac MRI allows the evaluation of the structures and function of the heart and major vessels without the risks of radiation exposure typically associated with traditional, more invasive procedures. MRI images of the heart are also generally better than other imaging methods for certain conditions. This advantage makes MRI an invaluable tool in early diagnosis and evaluation of certain cardiac abnormalities, especially those involving the heart muscle.
Cardiac MRI is often performed to:
- Evaluate the anatomy and function of the heart, valves, major vessels, and surrounding structures.
- Detect and evaluate the effects of coronary artery disease, such as reduced blood flow to the heart muscle and scarring within the heart muscle after a heart attack.
- Diagnose a variety of cardiovascular disorders such as tumors, infections, and inflammatory conditions.
- Evaluate the anatomy of the heart and blood vessels in children with congenital heart disease.
Using cardiac MRI, the radiologist can:
- Examine the size of the heart chambers and the thickness of the heart wall.
- Determine the extent of myocardial (heart muscle) damage and the effect on heart function caused by a heart attack or heart disease.
- Detect the buildup of plaque and blockages in blood vessels.
- Assess a patient’s recovery following treatment.
- Evaluate the function of the heart and its valves and the pattern of blood flow both before and after surgical repair of congenital heart disease.