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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Cardiac MRI

A cardiac and vascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) provides very detailed images of the heart and blood vessels including:

  • Function
  • Possible damage
  • Shape
  • Size

A magnetic field and radio waves are used to create pictures and make the diagnosis of specific diseases. No radiation or x-rays are used for this test. This exam:

  • Can limit the need for more invasive testing
  • Lasts about 60 minutes
  • Requires specially trained doctors
  • Uses new and complex computer software

A physician is usually present during the MRI to guide the testing and interpret images. A contrast agent is used to make certain parts of the heart and blood vessels appear brighter on the pictures. Non-iodinated, gadolinium-based contrast media is often administered as part of this examination. Gadolinium is a rare earth element that has specific properties useful in a magnetic field, making it a crucial component of magnetic resonance contrast media. Unlike the x-ray contrast dye, the MRI contrast agent does not:

  • Contain iodine and is safer for patients with mild renal dysfunction
  • Does not interact with most medications

Every MRI patient needs to be screened to ensure that certain safeguards are in place. If contrast will be administered, you will have a point-of-care test to determine your kidney function before your cardiac MRI. Based on the results, your doctors will adjust the dose of contrast administered or may perform the test without contrast. If you have any metal inside of your body, please tell your doctor before the exam. This may include:

  • Aneurysm clip
  • Bullets or shrapnel
  • Ear or eye implant
  • Heart pacemaker or implantable defibrillator (ICD)
  • Joint or bone rods or clips
  • Metal plate

If you have any of the above in your body, a physician will review the protocol and determine if it is safe to perform a cardiac MRI. In patients with heart pacemakers or ICD’s, your physician will work closely with the electrophysiologists at Northwestern to determine if you can undergo a cardiac MRI.

Clinical Trials

For more information regarding clinical trials related to cardiovascular disease, visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an e-mail or call 312-926-4000.

Contact Us Today

For more information regarding cardiovascular disease, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 866-662-8467. To schedule an appointment, please call 312-695-4965 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateMarch 15, 2011