What You Need to Know Before Opting for Cardiac MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been around for decades, but it's only within the past several years that physicians have begun using the technology on a regular basis to examine the heart.

For years the ultrasound-based echocardiogram was the standard option for capturing an image of the heart at work. It remains the go-to procedure, but cardiac MRI is an increasingly common and often more accurate alternative.

Nearly identical to a traditional MRI, cardiac MRI is a noninvasive procedure that entails lying on a bed scanner for 45 to 90 minutes. The magnetic fields and radio waves used in cardiac MRI are harmless, although the procedure can disrupt the functioning of pacemakers and implantable defibrillators and is therefore off-limits to patients with those devices.

Thanks to new technological advances, the test is now widely used to diagnose numerous cardiovascular conditions, including congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, and the extent of heart muscle damage caused by heart attacks (some of which may go unrecognized with less sensitive technology).

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Lead writer: Ray Hainer
Last Updated: April 12, 2008

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