Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is a special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test designed to evaluate arteries, veins, and the flowing blood within them. During an MRI examination, the patient is placed inside the opening of a very large magnet. Radiofrequency pulses are used within the magnetic field to generate detailed images of internal organs. No X-rays or ionizing radiation of any kind is necessary for an MRI exam. During an MRA exam, special types of pulses are used to create pictures of flowing blood and blood vessels. MRA is performed without need for catheters, and in many cases without need for any type of dyes or contrast injections. Sometimes, to produce exceptionally detailed pictures, MRI dye (gadolinium) is injected into a vein in the arm.
MRA is performed on the arteries of the neck and brain to test for any narrowing or plaque buildup that could lead to stroke, or for any weakening or ballooning of the arteries (aneurysms) that could lead to bleeding around the brain. MRA is performed on the arteries to the kidneys to test for narrowing that could lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). MRA is performed on the pelvis and legs to look for narrowing that could lead to painful walking or nonhealing ulcers or to look for blood clots in the veins.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. There is no pain involved with an MRI/MRA examination. Some patients with severe claustrophobia have difficulty with the test because the inside of the MRI machine is confining. High field Open Bore MRI is a new option for larger or claustrophobic patients. Loud tapping or banging noises are often made by the machine and may disturb sensitive patients.
There are no known harmful effects created by the magnetic field or the radio waves. The exam is dangerous to patients with certain implanted devices such as pacemakers, defibrillators, cochlear implants, colonoscopy clips, and aneurysm clips. MRI/MRA would not be performed on these patients. If contrast examination is necessary, then there is a very small risk of allergic reaction to the injected contrast dye.
All MRI/MRA exams at Raleigh Radiology are interpreted by board-certified diagnostic radiologists with fellowship training or with experience and special interest in MRI.
This procedure can be performed at all of our outpatient imaging facilities. (Blue Ridge, Cedarhurst, Cary, Clayton, Brier Creek and Wake Forest)