Skip to Content
Procedures

Cardiac MRI

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.

How Should I Prepare?

You will be asked not to eat for 2 hours prior to the procedure. Please do not wear any jewelry or metal.

What Should I Expect?

You will not be able to have an MRI examination if you have any of the following:

  • Most pacemakers
  • Certain brain aneurysm clips
  • Cochlear implants
  • Metallic fragments in an eye
  • Implanted spinal cord stimulator
  • Certain other metal-containing implants

Some exams require injection of a contrast agent into a vein in your hand or arm to improve visualization of abnormalities on the MRI images. MRI contrast is an organically bound gadolinium-based material that is extremely safe and typically has no side effects, though there is always the potential for allergic reaction. Please let us know if:

  • You are pregnant or think you might be
  • You are breastfeeding
  • You have anemia or any diseases that affect red blood cells
  • You have asthma or other allergic respiratory disorders
  • You have kidney (renal) disease
  • You have a history of injury during military service
  • You have a history of working with metal

After you arrive for your appointment, you will be escorted to a procedure room, where you will be asked to change into a patient gown. The technologist will position you on a cushioned table that will move into the tube-shaped scanner. After you have been properly positioned, the technologist will begin obtaining the MRI images.

The MRI machine creates a magnetic field around you and directs radio waves at your body to create the MRI images. You won’t feel the magnetic field or radio waves, but you may hear loud tapping and thumping sounds coming from inside the machine. While the images are obtained, you will be instructed to breathe normally but to lie as still as possible. The technologist will monitor you from another room. You will be able to speak to the technologist through a microphone, and the technologist will also be able to talk to you. Most exams take from 30 to 60 minutes, after which you will be able to return to your normal activities.

For your safety and the protection of others, we do not allow anyone other than patients in our exam rooms.

How Do I Get the Results?

After your study, the images will be evaluated by one of our board-certified radiologists with expertise in cardiac MRI imaging. A final report will be sent to your doctor or healthcare provider, who can then discuss the results with you in detail.

Reports are also available on the MyRAD Patient Portal

Cardiac Imaging Team

Shalini Guliani-Chabra, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    Body Imaging, General Radiology
  • Education:
    University of Mumbai, 1993
    M.D University of Mumbai, 1998
  • Internship:
    Internal Medicine, New York Medical College, 2002-2003
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2004-2008
  • Fellowship:
    Diagnostic Radiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2008-2009
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 2008

Shaun P. McManimon, M.D.

  • Specialties:
    General Radiology, Interventional Radiology
  • Education:
    B.S. – Boston University, 1983
    M.S. – University of Michigan, 1986
    M.D. – University of Michigan, 1988
  • Internship:
    General Surgery, Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center (San Antonio), 1989-1990
  • Residency:
    Diagnostic Radiology, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center (Phoenix), 1993-1997
  • Fellowship:
    Interventional Radiology, University of Colorado, 1997-1998
  • Board Certifications:
    ABR 1997; CAQ Interventional Radiology 1999, 2011

With Radiology Ltd. since 1998

Meet Samuel, Tucson resident

Because of previous heart problems, Samuel’s cardiologist ordered a Cardiac MRI in Tucson to get a better look. Doctors use Cardiac MRI to obtain pictures of the beating heart and look at both its structure and function. The MRI images and the radiologist’s report helped Sam’s cardiologist decide on the most appropriate treatment plan.