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You’ve probably heard about the testing procedure 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 procedure.
During magnetic resonance angiography, you lie flat inside the magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which 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 administered with an intravenous (IV) needle.
If your doctor 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 doctor can look for during this procedure include:
If a dye is needed to make the blood vessels easier to see during the procedure, 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 doctor 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 doctor 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 doctor before the procedure.
Magnetic resonance angiography is generally regarded as a safe procedure, but a few precautions must be taken for your safety. These steps will also help your doctor get accurate results from the procedure:
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 doctor will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to review the results of the test.
Your doctor 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 doctor 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 doctor will likely suggest additional procedures or treatments based on the specific problem that is discovered.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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