Cardiac MRI scans

8th September 2018

Our specialist helpline nurse Jayne Partidge recently posted about Cardiac MRI scans on our closed Facebook group. Read her post here.

Cardiac MRI scans

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to diagnose a variety of heart conditions these include coronary heart disease, heart muscle conditions such as Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or dilated cardiomyopathy heart valve disease or cardiac tumours. There is increasing evidence that cardiac MRI is very useful for providing images in more complex heart conditions and for diagnosing conditions where other tests have not been able to provide a clear diagnosis.

Cardiac MRI provides images which have lots of detail and can provide very accurate measurements of the heart. Cardiac MRI is also very safe, which is reassuring for patients who will need more than one Cardiac MRI scan over time.

Some people will have a cardiac MRI after they have had an Echocardiogram if for example the echo imaging is unclear or if alternative images are required to aid diagnosis or evaluate a heart condition over time.

The CMRI scanner is a large machine with a hole in the middle. You will be asked to lie down on a table which will move inside the tube, it can be a bit noisy and you may be asked to hold your breath during the scan so that clear images can be obtained. You might also be given headphones and listen to music if you are concerned about the noise.

The cardiac MRI scan usually lasts between 15 minutes and one hour on average.

You will not necessarily need to prepare for the scan (sometimes a blood test might be taken prior to the scan if you are going to have the cardiac MRI with dye), however you will need to tell the scan operator performing the scan if you have a pacemaker, ICD or CRT device or any metal work in or on your body. Most devices that are manufactured more recently are' MRI compatible' that means that they are safe inside an MRI scanner. If you have an older device you may still be able to have the scan care will be taken by those performing the scan. MRI scans use a magnetic field which can move iron containing objects.

Some people may need to have a small injection of 'contrast' dye, you should tell the staff if you have any kidney problems before the test if you know that you will be receiving the dye.

Latest developments in MRI scanners mean that newer scanners can scan much faster due to advanced computer software this may reduce the need for people to hold their breath during the scan.