Benefits vs. Risks of a Cardiac (Heart) MRI

Cardiac (Heart) MRI Benefits

  • MRI has the ability to offer a faster, more accurate way to diagnose heart attacks, leading to quicker intervention.
  • MRI is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not involve exposure to ionizing radiation.
  • MRI images of the heart are generally clearer and more detailed than with some other imaging methods. This detail makes MRI an invaluable tool in early diagnosis and evaluation of cardiac abnormalities, especially those involving the heart muscle.
  • MRI has proven valuable in diagnosing a broad range of conditions, including cardiac anatomical anomalies (congenital defects, etc.), functional abnormalities (valve failure, etc.), tumors. ischemic (myocardial perfusion, viability, scar) and degenerative conditions.
  • MRI can help physicians evaluate both the structure of the heart & vessels and how they're working. Determine blood flow dynamics in the vessels and heart chambers and assess for shunts.
  • Cardiac MRI allows doctors to quickly examine the structures and function of the heart and major vessels, without the risks associated with traditional, more invasive procedures.
  • The contrast material used in MRI exams is less likely to produce an allergic reaction than the iodine-based materials used for CT scanning, and catheterizations.
  • The chemical stress agent used to assess for heart muscle injury is reduced in amount and duration compared to a radionuclide exam.

Cardiac (Heart) MRI Risks

  • The MRI poses almost no risk to the average patient when appropriate safety guidelines are followed.
  • There are risks of excessive sedation (if used). The technologist or nurse monitors your vital signs to minimize this risk.
  • Although the strong magnetic field is not harmful in itself, implanted medical devices that contain metal may malfunction or cause problems during an MRI exam.
  • There is a slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected. Such reactions usually are mild and easily controlled by medication. If you experience allergic symptoms, a radiologist or other physician will be available for immediate assistance.
  • Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is currently a recognized, but rare, complication of MRI believed to be caused by the injection of high doses of MRI contrast material in patients with very poor kidney function.