Cardiac MRI

What is cardiac MRI scan?

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves and a high-end computer to create very detailed still and moving pictures of the structures of the heart (cardiac chambers, valves, heart muscle, vessels) and surrounding region. Numerous images are taken from different angles of the heart and heart vessels throughout the scan. With the help of the recorded images, it is possible to see and measure how the heart is functioning and how the blood is flowing through the valves and vessels.  This advanced diagnostic technology can provide detailed information on the type and severity of several heart diseases.

At Medicover Hospital we use SIEMENS MAGNETOM Aera MRI scanner for fast and reliable scans and the outmost image quality and resolution.

When is a heart MRI needed?

A physician can order a cardiac MRI scan in case of risk or evidence of heart failure or other heart problems such as previous damage from a heart attack, or inflammation of the heart muscle or inflammation of the membrane around the heart (the pericardium), congenital heart defects, heart valve defects, heart muscle disease or tumour / other mass in the heart.

A heart MRI could also be helpful to find the precise diagnosis if you have thickened heart muscle, enlarged right ventricle or reduced pumping function of your left ventricle.

Cardiac MRI should also be the first choice in patients if regular follow-up of their enlarged aorta (the main artery) is needed.

What happens during a cardiac MRI scan?

In the scanning room, the MRI operator will position you on your back on a moveable examination table that is part of the MRI scanner. A pillow will placed under your head and a pad under your legs. After heart monitoring ECG (electrocardiogram) stickers are applied on your chest, and a special receiver (coil) is placed over it, the examination table will slide into the scanner.

As the scanner makes a loud knocking sound, we will give you a set of ear defenders to wear throughout the scan. These not only reduce the noise of the scanner, but it means you will be able to hear the operator talk to you. You can communicate with the MRI operator during the scan and you will have an alarm buzzer to hold if you need any assistance.

It is very important to stay still in the scanner throughout the process. You will be given breathing instructions and will be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time while some images are recorded.

Most patients will need to have an injection of a contrast agent which can provide additional information about the heart and vessels.

In cardiac MRI gadolinium-based contrast material are used and will be given by injection into your vein. You should not feel any ill effects from the injection. If you are breast feeding, the contrast manufacturers advise you to stop breast feeding your child for at least 24 hours after having an injection of contrast.

The scanning process will take approximately 60 minutes.

The report will not be available on same day as it takes time to analyse the collected dataset.

Are there any risks or side effects?

Unlike a CT scan, an MRI does not use radiation. (It is considered a safer alternative for pregnant women after the first trimester)
The process is completely painless.
There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction when contrast agent is used. These reactions are usually mild. Our MRI operators are always available for immediate assistance in case of allergic symptoms that can be treated easily by medication.

How should I prepare for the MRI scan?

Before the scan you will need to remove any metallic objects (such as jewellery, keys, money, watch) and all clothes that have metal zips or fasteners, and then you need to change into a gown, our operator will escort you into the scanning room.
It is necessary to remove all electronic devices and credit cards from your pocket. The magnets used in the machine can damage these items.
In studies where contrast is used a two-hour food restriction must be applied as a security precaution in case of a rare event of nausea/vomiting (mild allergic reaction)
There are no restrictions regarding fluid intake and meals before an examination without contrast administration.
Most people can continue taking any medication before the test.

When a heart MRI scan cannot be performed?

You will not be able to have a cardiac MRI if you have:

  • Most types of heart pacemaker or implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD)
  • Surgical clips (aneurysm clips) within your head
  • Certain inner ear implants
  • Metal fragments within your eye or head
  • Some other implants

This is because the scanner uses very strong magnets that could deactivate the pacemaker or defibrillator and can make anything made of metal moved.

Metal bone plates, artificial joints, coronary artery stents and most heart valves are perfectly safe, but we will advise you prior to the scan.

MRI contrast is removed from your blood by your kidneys through your urine. It is easily removed from the body of people who have normal kidney function. However, people whose kidneys are poorly functioning (known as ‘renal failure’) cannot remove MRI contrast from their body. This may lead to a very rare disorder called Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF). NSF is a condition that results in scarring or thickening of the skin and tissues throughout the body. Therefore we will need the result of a recent (<1 month) blood test of your kidney function prior to the test.

Although MRI is a safe procedure, we aim to avoid scanning during the first three months of pregnancy. If your appointment is not clinically urgent then we may wait until you have given birth before scanning you.

If you have claustrophobia (fear of being in a closed space) you can try our MRI scanner, that has a larger bore (70 cm diameter).