Health Library

Magnetic Resonance Angiography

An introduction to Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

Did you know an MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) are actually the same test? After all, the first two letters of each test – ‘M’ and ‘R’ – stand for the same thing. Both tests use the same technology, but in different ways. You could say that an MRA is a specific type of MRI.

They both generate a magnetic field and use radio waves to form a visual of what is happening inside your body. They both produce three-dimensional images that cannot be obtained from an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan.

An MRI focuses more on organs and tissue while an MRA examines the condition of your blood vessels and identifies if those blood vessels are narrow or blocked. Narrow or blocked blood vessels impede the flow of blood inside the body, which can be fatal if left untreated.

When is a Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) needed?

If you have a history of heart disease, blood clots, carotid artery disease, stroke, vascular stenosis, coronary atherosclerosis, renal artery stenosis, or some other issue with your blood vessels, then you may have to get an MRA to figure out what’s going on. If you have chest pain or recently had a heart attack, an MRA can detect the cause of the reduced blood flow.

Expectations & Preparation

An MRA can last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. It’s painless and noninvasive. If you are receiving IV contrast you will receive specific instructions about blood work tests and you will have to refrain from eating or drinking anything for two to four hours before the procedure. You must remove any jewelry or metal objects and you’ll be provided with a gown to wear prior to lying down on a padded table that is part of the scanner.

Do let your technologist know if you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or have any metallic implants like a neurostimulator, surgical staples, shrapnel or bullet wounds, aneurysm clips, internal defibrillator, pacemaker, stents, an implanted drug infusion device, permanent eyeliner, etc.

Don’t be alarmed if you hear any tapping or thumping during your MRA, it’s all part of the procedure. You’ll be provided with earplugs or headsets to block out most of the noise. The technologist who is performing the exam will periodically ask how you are feeling and may provide other instructions like taking a deep breath and holding it for a short period. You’ll also want to lie absolutely still so that the test can produce the best quality images.

Contrast dye may be administered to improve the quality of images so if you suspect that you might be allergic to the dye, do let your doctor know, especially if you’ve had kidney disease or kidney failure because poor kidney function can prevent you from flushing the dye from your system.

What happens after?

A radiologist will analyze the images captured during your MRA and the results should be available to your doctor in one or two days. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to discuss the results with your doctor. A normal test result will indicate that there are no blockages or irregularities. An abnormal test result may require additional tests or treatments depending on the exact nature of the result.

Lastly, do rest assured that MRAs are extremely safe. A bit of nausea or a mild headache are the only side effects that could occur, and even those are extremely rare. If you feel itchy or experience shortness of breath, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible because it could mean you had an allergic reaction.

And if you were sedated during the procedure, please arrange for a ride home as it won’t be safe for you to be behind the wheel.

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) at Akumin

Akumin offers Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) exams at many of its centers. View our locations page to schedule an appointment at a center closest to you. If you’re scheduled for an MRA or have had an MRA performed with us, you can review the exam prep guidelines or view your results on our patient portal within 24 to 48 hours.

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