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MRI Angiography

Angiography is a medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Angiography uses one of three imaging technologies and, in some cases, a contrast material to produce pictures of major blood vessels throughout the body.

Angiography is performed using X-rays with catheters, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA), a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer produce the detailed images. MR angiography does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays). MR angiography may be performed with or without contrast material. If needed, the contrast material is usually injected using a vein in the arm.

Your doctor may recommend a MRA to examine blood vessels in key areas of the body, including the:

  • Brain
  • Kidneys
  • Pelvis
  • Legs
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Neck
  • Abdomen

Physicians use the procedure to:

  • Identify disease and aneurysms in the aorta, both in the chest and abdomen, or in other major blood vessels
  • Detect atherosclerosis disease in the carotid artery of the neck, which may limit blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke
  • Identify a small aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation inside the brain
  • Detect atherosclerotic disease that has narrowed the arteries to the legs and help prepare for endovascular intervention or surgery
  • Detect disease in the arteries to the kidneys or visualize blood flow to help prepare for a kidney transplant
  • Guide interventional radiologists and surgeons making repairs to diseased blood vessels, such as implanting stents or evaluating a stent after implantation
  • Detect injury to one of more arteries in the neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis or extremities in trauma patients
  • Evaluate arteries feeding a tumor prior to surgery or other procedures such as chemoembolization or selective internal radiation therapy
  • Identify dissection or splitting in the aorta in the chest or abdomen or its major branches
  • Show the extent and severity of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries and plan for a surgical operation, such as a coronary bypass and stenting
  • Sample blood from specific veins in the body to detect any endocrine disease
  • Examine pulmonary arteries in the lungs to detect pulmonary embolism (blood clots from leg veins)
  • Screen individuals for arterial disease, especially patients with a family history of arterial disease or disorders

This examination is usually done on an outpatient basis. You will be positioned on the moveable examination table. Straps and bolsters may be used to help you stay still and maintain the correct position during imaging. Small devices that contain coils capable of sending and receiving radio waves may be placed around or adjacent to the area of the body being studied. If a contrast material will be used in the MRI exam, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm. A saline solution may be used. The solution will drip through the IV to prevent blockage of the IV line until the contrast material is injected. You will be moved into the magnet of the MRI unit and the radiologist and technologist will leave the room while the MRI examination is performed.

If a contrast material is used during the examination, it will be injected into the intravenous line (IV) after an initial series of scans. Additional series of images will be taken during or following the injection. When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist checks the images in case additional images are needed. Your intravenous line will be removed. The entire examination is usually completed within 30 to 60 minutes.

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