Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)

A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) is an imaging test that uses strong magnets and radio waves to form images of the blood vessels in your body that can be viewed on a computer. It is used to find the exact location and extent of any blockage or narrowing of an artery. The testing and recovery time is less than that of a routine angiogram and involves no exposure to X-ray radiation.

Why have an MRA?

An MRA may be used to:

  • Check arteries in your neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, arms, legs or brain
  • Look for a ballooning of the blood vessel wall (aneurysm), narrowing of the blood vessel (stenosis), or tear in the blood vessel (dissection)
  • Find damage to your arteries caused by injuries

What to expect

Most MRI tests take 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the type of MRI you are having, the test may take longer. 

Before the test

Your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to stop eating, drinking or taking medicine before your test. Give yourself extra time to check in. You’ll be asked to remove your watch, jewelry, hearing aids, credit cards, pens, pocket knives, eyeglasses and other metal objects. You may change into a hospital gown and an IV line may be set up.

Special concerns

MRAs use strong magnets. Metal is affected by magnets and can distort the image. The magnet used in MRI can cause metal objects in your body to move. If you have a metal implant, you may not be able to have an MRI unless the implant is certified as MRI safe.

You should not have an MRA if you have:

  • Ear (cochlear) implants
  • Certain clips used for brain aneurysms
  • Certain metal coils put in blood vessels
  • Most defibrillators
  • Most pacemakers

Be sure to tell your provider if you:

  • Are wearing makeup, since makeup may contain some metal
  • Have had any previous surgeries
  • Have a pacemaker, surgical clips, metal plate or pins, an artificial joint, staples or screws, cochlear implants or other implants
  • Wear a medicated adhesive patch
  • Have metal splinters in your body
  • Have implanted nerve stimulators or drug-infusion ports
  • Have tattoos or body piercings. Some tattoo inks contain metal
  • Work with metal
  • Have dental braces. You must remove any dental work
  • Have a bullet or other metal in your body
  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • Are breastfeeding

  • Have any serious health problems, including kidney disease or a liver transplant. You may not be able to have the dye used for MRI

  • Are allergic to X-ray dye (contrast medium), iodine, shellfish, or any medicines

  • Tend to be afraid of small, enclosed spaces (are claustrophobic)

During the test

  • You will lie down on a platform that slides into the MRI machine.
  • At times, the magnet may be within a few inches of your face. It is normal for the MRI machine to make loud knocking noises during some parts of the exam.
  • Several studies may be done. Dye may be injected into your vein through an IV line for some of the studies.

After the test

If you were injected with dye, drink plenty of fluids. This will help flush the dye from your body. Your provider will discuss the results with you when they are ready.

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