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Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

Woman lying on back on scanner table. Healthcare provider is standing next to woman preparing to slide table into ring-shaped scanner.

Magnetic resonance angiography uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create images of blood vessels throughout the body. It combines the use of strong magnets and radio waves to form an image that can be viewed on a video screen.

Why MRA is done

MRA may be used to:

  • Examine arteries in the neck, lungs, abdomen, pelvis, kidneys, or brain.

  • Look for an aneurysm (ballooning of the blood vessel wall) or dissection (tear in the vessel).

  • Detect damage to arteries because of injuries.

Before your test

  • You may need to stop eating or drinking before the test. Each health care facility has its own guidelines on this. It also depends on the type of exam you are having. Ask your health care provider if you should stop eating or drinking before the test.

  • Ask your provider if you should stop taking any medicine before the test.

  • Follow your normal daily routine unless your provider tells you otherwise. 

  • You’ll be asked to remove your watch, jewelry, hearing aids, credit cards, pens, pocket knives, eyeglasses, and other metal objects.

  • You may be asked to remove your makeup. Makeup may contain some metal.

  • Most MRI tests take 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the type of MRI you are having, the test may take longer. Give yourself extra time to check in.

MRI uses strong magnets. Metal is affected by magnets and can distort the image. The magnet used in MRI can cause metal objects in your body to move. If you have a metal implant, you may not be able to have an MRI. People with these implants should not have an MRI:

  • Ear (cochlear) implants

  • Certain clips used for brain aneurysms

  • Certain metal coils put in blood vessels

  • Defibrillators

  • Pacemakers

Be sure to tell the radiologist or technologist if you:

  • Have any serious health problems. This includes kidney disease or a liver transplant. You may not be able to have the X-ray dye (contrast material) used for MRI.

  • Are breastfeeding 

  • Have had any previous surgeries

  • Have a pacemaker, surgical clips, metal plate or pins, an artificial joint, staples or screws, ear (cochlear) implants, or other implants

  • Wear a medicated adhesive patch

  • Have metal splinters in your body

  • Have implanted nerve stimulators or drug-infusion ports

  • Have tattoos or body piercings. Some tattoo inks contain metal.

  • Work with metal

  • Have braces. You must remove any dental work.

  • Have a bullet or other metal in your body

Also tell the radiologist or technologist if:

  • You are, or think you may be, pregnant

  • You tend to be afraid of small, enclosed spaces (claustrophobic)

  • You are allergic to contrast medium, iodine, shellfish, or any medicines

  • You wear a medicated adhesive patch

During the procedure

  • You may change into a hospital gown. An IV (intravenous) line may be set up.

  • You will lie down on a platform that slides into the MRI machine.

  • At times, the magnet may be within a few inches of your face. It is normal for the MRI machine to make loud knocking noises during some parts of the exam.

  • Several studies may be done. Contrast medium may be injected into a vein through an IV line for some of the studies.

After the procedure

  • If you were injected with contrast medium, drink plenty of fluids to help flush it from your system.

  • Your doctor will discuss the results with you when they are ready.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 12/16/2013
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