While the vast majority of people have heard of an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), most are less familiar with an MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography). An MRA uses a machine to generate a magnetic field using pulses of radio wave energy, to build real-time images of blood vessels and blood flow within the body. An MRA can be used with a contrast medium (medical dye) or without. When it is used without dye, it is called a non-contrast MRA.
A non-contrast MRA is safer for patients who cannot tolerate the contrast dye which is normally added to create clearer diagnostic images. Newer generations of MRA’s can produce finely detailed images, capturing even minute details of the internal vascular structures without the need for contrast dye. In other words, a non-contrast MRA allows your physician to view tiny blood vessels clearly.
Non Contrast MRA
This allows your doctor to detect atherosclerotic disease (a plaque buildup that can block the flow of blood in your arteries). Unlike traditional angiography, which requires placing a specialized flexile tube (catheter) into the body to create images, an MRA is non-invasive. MRA is one of the newer innovations in the field of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Whereas an MRI is used to image various parts of the body – bones and joints, soft tissues, muscles, internal organs, and blood vessels, an MRA is designed specifically to show the arteries and veins. These machines do have some degree of overlap, and the methods for performing non-contrast MRA (NC-MRA) have been available since the introduction of MRI.
During a contrast enhanced MRA, or CE-MRA, a dye has to be injected at just the right time so it will show up in the images as it moves through the blood vessels. Thanks to advances in technology, non-contrast MRA’s can still pick up critical details without exposing high risk patients to the medical dye. High risk patients would include those with certain kinds of kidney disease or kidney failure.
What to Expect During an MRA
When you prepare for an MRA, it is much like how you would prepare for an MRI, as they use the same technology.
- You may eat, drink, and take medications as usual.
- You must completely change into a patient gown and lock up all personal belongings. To make it easier on you, wear something you can easily get in and out of.
- Imaging takes place inside of a large tube-like structure that is open on both ends. You must lie perfectly still for quality images. If you are claustrophobic, please inform your doctor and they will likely prescribe you a sedative. Please note, someone will need to drive you home. This machine is very loud, so earplugs should be provided to you.
- If you have metal with in your body, make sure you disclose this to your doctor.
Since MRA uses a strong magnetic field during the exam, certain conditions may prevent you from having a MRA. Make sure not only your doctor, but the technician doing your exam if you have any of the conditions that may prevent you from having the scan:
- History of kidney problems
- Skin tattoos
- Neurostimulators (TENS- unit)
- Implanted drug infusion devise (like insulin pump)
- Exposure of metal fragments in your eye
- Artificial heart valves
- Aneurysm clips
- Cochlear implants
- Metallic implants and prosthesis
- Vascular stent or graft
- History as a metal worker
- Shrapnel or bullet wounds
- Dorsal column stimulators
- History of diabetes
- Any other conditions you believe to be relevant
Independent Imaging is your connection to the most advanced imaging technology in Palm Beach County. Our radiologists are board certified and fellowship trained in diagnostic and interventional radiology procedures. Contact us in Wellington, Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, or Belle Glade for an appointment. Call (561) 795-5558 or request an appointment online, today.