You’ve probably heard about the test called magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. In this test, radio waves, a magnetic field, and a computer create a scan of your body parts to look for health problems.
Magnetic resonance angiography–also called a magnetic resonance angiogram or MRA–is a type of MRI that looks specifically at the body’s blood vessels. Unlike a traditional angiogram, which requires inserting a catheter into the body, magnetic resonance angiography is a far less invasive and less painful test.
During magnetic resonance angiography, you lie flat inside the magnetic resonance imaging scanner. This is a large, tunnel-like tube. In some cases, a special dye, known as contrast, may be added to your bloodstream to make your blood vessels easier to see. When needed, the contrast is given with an intravenous (IV) needle.
If your healthcare provider believes that you may have a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels somewhere in your body, he or she may recommend magnetic resonance angiography. Other conditions that your healthcare provider can look for during this test include:
If a dye is needed to make the blood vessels easier to see during the test, you may experience a bit of discomfort because of the insertion of the IV.
You might also experience some anxiety when placed inside the MRI scanner, which is a small, narrow space. If you think you might be claustrophobic, be sure to inform your healthcare provider of this in advance. You may be given a mild sedative to make being in the MRI scanner more bearable.
Some potential risks of magnetic resonance angiography include:
Pregnant women may have additional risks in the MRI scanner. Make sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are or might be pregnant.
You may be at risk for other complications, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the test.
Magnetic resonance angiography is generally regarded as a safe test, but a few precautions must be taken for your safety. These steps will also help your healthcare provider get accurate results from the test:
Magnetic resonance angiography may be done on an outpatient basis or during a hospital stay. Generally, magnetic resonance angiography follows this process:
The scan typically causes no side effects or complications. If it is done on an outpatient basis, you are generally free to leave after the magnetic resonance angiography. Your healthcare provider will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to review the results of the test.
Your healthcare provider will examine the images from the magnetic resonance angiography. If no blockages or irregularities are found, you have what’s called a normal test result. An abnormal result means that the healthcare provider noted an abnormality in one or more of the blood vessels in your body. This may suggest that you have hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, or another circulatory problem. Your healthcare provider will likely suggest additional tests or treatments based on the specific problem that is discovered.