Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) including stress perfusion imaging

Patient information

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) including stress perfusion imaging

Cardiac Magnetic resonance imaging (Cardiac MRI) is an imaging technique which uses magnetic energy to generate very detailed pictures of the heart. There are many reasons that your Healthcare Professional may request a Cardiac Magnetic Resonance scan of your heart. Common reasons include to investigate chest pains or possible angina (known as a stress perfusion cardiac MRI scan), to look at the main blood vessel leaving the heart (aorta), to investigate the extent of damage caused by a heart attack (known as a cardiac viability study) and to investigate disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).
A Cardiac MRI usually takes place as a day case procedure in the North West Heart Centre. When you arrive you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to check your suitability for the scan. Certain people may not be suitable for a Cardiac MRI (this test is not suitable for some people who are claustrophobic and those with certain metal implants such as surgical clips after brain aneurysm surgery or previous metal foreign bodies in the eye). If you have a pacemaker, it is usually safe to proceed with a Cardiac MRI but we will need further information about your pacemaker from the pacemaker department that looks after you.
After checks to ensure it is safe to proceed, you will usually have a drip (cannula) inserted into your arm. You will then change into a gown ensuring all metal items (such as jewellery) have been removed. You will then be asked to lie on the Cardiac MRI table and several stickers will be placed on your upper body to monitor the heart beat and a belt placed on your chest. You will be given some headphones to wear which protect your ears from the noise of the MRI scanner but also allow the radiographer to talk to you throughout the scan. Then the table will be moved and your body positioned in the Cardiac MRI ‘tunnel’. The Cardiac MRI usually takes about 30-40 minutes to acquire all the required images of your heart. As the pictures are of the best quality when the heart is still in the chest, you will be asked to hold your breath for short periods at regular intervals. If you are having a ‘stress perfusion MRI’ to investigate chest pains or possible angina, you will be given a medication called adenosine as an infusion about halfway through the test. The radiographer will explain this as they go along through the headphones. During the adenosine infusion you are likely to feel chest tightness, pounding of the heart and shortness of breath. This is all entirely normal and means the medication is working to stress the heart. The sensation will only last a couple of minutes and stops almost immediately once the infusion has stopped. During this infusion your blood pressure will also be monitored via a cuff placed on your arm. It is also likely that you will receive a special contrast known as gadolinium when you undergo a Cardiac MRI scan which is given to you via the drip in the arm and can look specifically for scar in the heart muscle.

After the test you will be able to leave the department shortly after the scan is finished and should feel no ill effects from the scan. The scan has to be interpreted by a doctor and therefore the results will not be given to you immediately but will be sent to your Healthcare Professional once the report has been issued.