Magnetic Resonance Angiography

Magnetic Resonance Angiography

(MRA)

Definition

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is a study of the blood vessels using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make pictures.

Reasons for Test

An MRA is done to:

  • Find blood vessels that are narrow, enlarged, blocked, or diseased
  • Look for blood leaking from the blood vessels

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen.

Sometimes a chemical called contrast is used to improve the pictures. Some people can have an allergic reaction or kidney problems caused by the contrast. This is rare.

MRIs can be harmful for people with metal inside their body. Examples are joint replacements, stents, or a pacemaker.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

If you are having contrast, the doctor may meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the test
  • Fasting before the test, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the test

You will also be asked if you have something in your body that could interfere with the MRA, such as:

  • An implanted device such as a:
    • Pacemaker or implantable defibrillator
    • Neurostimulator
    • Port device, like an insulin pump
    • Ear implant
  • Metal fragments, bullets, plates, pins, screws, or surgical staples or clips
  • Any other large metal objects

Description of the Test

If contrast is needed, it may be given as an injection. The contrast will be injected during one set of images.

You will lie on a special table. This table will be moved inside the opening of the MRI machine. Most MRIs consist of 2 to 6 sets of images. Each one will take between 2 to 15 minutes. You will need to be still while the images are taken. You may need to hold your breath briefly. You will be able to talk to the technician through a small speaker.

After Test

If you had contrast, you may be told to drink extra fluid. This will flush the contrast out of your body.

How Long Will It Take?

About 40 to 90 minutes

Will It Hurt?

The test should normally not hurt. Some may find it uncomfortable to stay still during the test. You may feel flushed if you received contrast. You may notice a salty or metallic taste in your mouth. You may also feel nauseated..

Results

Your doctor will receive the results and discuss them with you.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have:

  • New or worsening symptoms
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Swollen eyes
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Problems breathing

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org
Radiology Info—Radiologic Society of North America
https://www.radiologyinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

References:

Cardiac MRI. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/cardiac-mri. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Carotid artery stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/carotid-artery-stenosis. Accessed September 3, 2021.
François CJ. Abdominal magnetic resonance angiography. Magn Reson Imaging Clin N Am. 2020;28(3):395-405.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/diagnosing-a-heart-attack/magnetic-resonance-imaging-mri#.WplqDmrwZxA . Accessed September 3, 2021.
MR angiography (MRA). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/angiomr.. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 9/3/2021

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