Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a powerful magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to capture images of your heart’s function and structure, without the need to make any surgical incisions. A computer creates detailed still and moving images of your heart that can help in early diagnosis and treatment of suspected heart conditions.
An MRI scan can be performed on any part of the body, but a cardiac MRI looks specifically at your heart and nearby blood vessels. Unlike a CT scan, no ionising radiation is used, and is therefore considered a safer option, particularly for pregnant women. However, if possible, it is still best to wait until after the first trimester before carrying out any scans.
Why is a Cardiac MRI Carried Out?
A cardiac MRI is recommended if your doctor feels you are at risk of heart failure or other heart problems. It is commonly used to test for the following conditions, and make an assessment and diagnosis:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart failure
- Congenital heart defects
- Pericarditis – Inflammation of the membrane around the heart
- Heart valve defects
As an MRI can show cross sections of the body, they can also assist in explaining results from other tests such as X-rays.
Preparing for a Cardiac MRI
Your Consultant will explain to you how to prepare for a cardiac MRI; this is a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Although an MRI is completely safe, not everyone is suitable for them. This is primarily due to the powerful magnetic field that is used. It is therefore important that you inform your Consultant if you have any of the following:
- A pacemaker, defibrillator or any other implanted electronic device
- Implanted nerve stimulators
- Artificial limbs or metallic joints
- Artificial heart valves
- A cochlear implant
- Implanted drug ports
- Any pins, plates, screws, stents or surgical staples
- Surgical clips such as those used on brain aneurysms
It is important that you remove all metal jewellery prior to your cardiac MRI.
If you are claustrophobic, you may feel uncomfortable in the MRI machine. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor before your procedure, who may be able to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help you relax.
During your Cardiac MRI
During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back and remain still whilst the scanner takes pictures.
The machine consists of a bench that slowly glides into a large tube that is attached to a doughnut-shaped opening. Provided you have followed all the procedures set out in preparing for your cardiac MRI, you will be completely safe. You will be offered a pillow and blanket if you are having difficulties lying still, along with the option of listening to music through a set of headphones. As the machine is very noisy (it makes loud whirring and thumping noises whilst taking images of your body), it is a good idea to have something playing to help drown out some of the noise.
A small amount of dye may be injected into your veins as part of the scan; this helps to improve the visibility of your blood vessels on the images. The radiographer controlling the scan will communicate with you through a microphone and will ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds as the pictures are being taken. As the machine’s magnetic and radio frequencies cannot be felt, you will not feel anything.
The procedure takes between 30-90 minutes in total.
After your Cardiac MRI
Once your MRI is complete, you would be fine to drive yourself home, unless you were given any sedation or anti-anxiety medication, in which case you will need someone to come and collect you. The Consultant will analyse and interpret your scans and the results will be sent to your referring doctor who will follow-up with any next steps of treatment required.
At One Healthcare we can book you in to see a specialist Cardiologist for an initial consultation, usually within 48 hours. Cardiac MRI is available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent and One Hatfield Hospital in Hertfordshire.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Cardiac MRI treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread the cost of your treatment over a number of months. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at One Ashford Hospital
Why One Ashford Hospital
- Access to leading Consultants within 48 hours*
- Spread the cost with finance**
- Competitive fixed-price packages
- Modern purpose-built hospital
- Private, spacious, ensuite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little waiting time for surgery
- Calm, dignified experience
*Dependent on Consultant availability
**Terms and conditions apply