Skip to Content

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer to create pictures of your heart without using ionizing radiation.

Our doctors use highly sophisticated cardiac MRI techniques to characterize the structure and function of the heart, to detect coronary artery disease through stress testing, and to diagnose a variety of heart conditions such as:

  • Amyloidosis
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Iron overload
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Other disorders

Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

What Is a Cardiac MRI?

A cardiac MRI uses a magnetic resonance imaging machine to create pictures of your heart, without using ionizing radiation.

The UPMC Advanced Cardiac Imaging Program uses a short and wide bore, “smart” magnetic resonance scanner, which can accommodate a greater range of patients than traditional MRI scanners.

Other features include the widespread use of motion corrected (moco) pulse sequences which minimizes the need for breath holding during examination.

You may need a cardiac MRI if you have:

  • Previously had a heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy, or heart muscle disease
  • Ventricular arrhythmia, or a heart rhythm disorder that originates in your ventricles
  • Congenital heart defects, or heart problems present at birth
  • Blood clots or tumors in your heart

How to Prepare for Your Cardiac MRI?

Tell your doctor:

  • About any metal objects or devices you have in your body, as some implanted devices are safe around MRI machines but others are not
  • If you are pregnant
  • If small, confined spaces make you feel anxious or scared

Before the test, you will remove any clothing above your waist and put on a hospital gown.

You may receive an IV so you can get medicine during the test. We may inject contrast material, call gadolinium, through the IV in order to get a better picture of your heart. Gadolinium does not contain iodine.

What to Expect During a Cardiac MRI?

  • You will lie flat on your back on a table that is moved into the machine. It is important to lie very still during the test.
  • A technician will control the machine from the next room and will be able to see and hear you throughout the entire test.
  • If necessary, contrast material may be injected into a vein to get a better picture of your heart.
  • The MRI machine makes loud noises, and you may be given ear plugs or allowed to listen to music during the test.
  • This test usually takes 30 to 90 minutes.

Cardiac MRI Results

Common results of a cardiac MRI include:

  • Normal results mean that your heart chambers and valves are working properly, the amount of blood your heart pumps is normal, there is no extra fluid around your heart, and no tumors or blood clots are present.
  • Abnormal results can vary depending on your specific condition and may include that your heart chambers or valves are not working properly, the amount of blood your heart pumps is not enough to support your body’s needs, there is extra fluid around your heart, or a tumor or blood clot is present.

Common Cardiac MRI Side Effects and Risks

No harmful effects from the strong magnetic field are known, though the magnet may affect some implanted devices.

If contrast material is used, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction or an infection at the injection site. In rare cases, contrast material can harm people with severe kidney or liver disease.

How Much Does a Cardiac MRI Cost?

The cost of a cardiac MRI varies depending on your insurance provider. Please call the physician’s office to verify insurance coverage and cost.