What is it?                    

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, or cardiac MRI, is a high-definition test of unparalleled value. This type of MRI provides detailed images of the heart that help assess cardiac function.

The test also makes it easier to evaluate the cardiac muscle composition called tissue characterization.

This information is important in cases of congenital diseases, others that infiltrate the heart muscle, or diseases that cause thickening of the pericardium.









An Entirely Safe Test     

Cardiac MRI does not use ionizing radiation such as X-rays, computer-assisted tomography (also called CT scan), or nuclear medicine. It is a very safe test indeed.

The MRI machine uses a magnetic field, which refers to the invisible space around a magnet (intensity of 1.5 or 3.0 Tesla), radio waves, as well as a computer that takes signals from the MRI to make detailed pictures of the heart.









Cardiac MRI is a Complement to an Echocardiogram Test

A MIR scan procedure is particularly useful when the echocardiogram pictures do not show the heart with sufficient accuracy.



Making an Appointment 

The patient must make an appointment.

It happens quite frequently though that the treating physician chooses to make the appointment himself. In this case, the doctor’s office gets in touch with the patient and informs him of the date and time of his hospital appointment.  


How Long Does the Test Take?

The test lasts from 30 to 50 minutes, approximately.


Preparing for the Test

No particular preparation is needed for this test. The patient can eat and drink normally and take his medication as usual.  


On the Day of the Exam

During the check-in process, the patient fills out a medical history form. The attending healthcare professionals need to know the following:

  • If the patient suffers from claustrophobia, is afraid of taking this test, or is uncomfortable in enclosed areas.
  • If the patient is fitted with a pacemaker.
  • If the patient suffers from allergies, particularly to gadolinium.
  • A female patient is asked if she is pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • If the patient’s kidneys function normally. Renal function (creatinine) is tested with a blood sample on the day of the exam, when necessary.
  • If the patient has implants or metallic debris lodged in his brain or eyes.


The Patient Must Undress Down to his Waist    

The patient removes all clothing on the upper part of his body and changes into a hospital gown.


The MRI Machine Does not Like Metal

The patient is asked to remove all metal items such as jewelry, coins, belt, etc. This can compare to airport security control. 


A Catheter is Installed  

A cardiac technologist inserts a catheter into a vein in the patient’s forearm.


Security Measures

Before taking the patient to the examination room, a cardiac technologist makes sure that all security measures were complied with, and are in keeping with the patient’s medical history questionnaire filled out at admission.

The patient is taken to the examination room.


Patient Positioning in Cardiac MRI

The room is bright and somewhat cold. The cardiac technologist helps the patient sit on the side of the examination table.

The MRI technologist places 3 electrodes on the patient’s chest. They are small sensors that record the patient’s heartbeats during the exam. The patient can now lie on his back.

For maximum patient comfort, headphones, a pillow, and a blanket are provided.




Cardiac Imaging Procedure

The patient’s head and thorax slide inside the scanner, which is shaped like a doughnut. No effort is required from the patient, the table he lies on is mobile and does all the work.

The tube is large and opens at both ends to curtail any risk of claustrophobia.


Patient Has Nothing to Fear!

The patient has constant verbal communication with the MRI technologist to let him know how he feels, etc.

Once the patient is properly positioned, the technologist goes to the control room, which is adjacent to the examination room.

There is a large glass separation between the two rooms, allowing the technologist to have visual contact with the patient throughout the entire procedure.

The patient and the technologist can communicate at all times through the earphones that were provided at the beginning of the test. There are several microphones to this effect in the examination room.


MRI is a Noisy Test

The machine is rather loud and creates a knocking sound when taking pictures. Consequently, the earphones perform a dual function: they tone down the noise coming from the scanner and allow the patient to hear instructions from the control room.

Between instructions, the patient may choose to listen to music or the radio through the earphones. He just has to tell the technologist what he prefers listening to.


Following Instructions

During the test, the cardiac technologist gives breathing instructions to the patient.

To optimize the quality of the images being taken, the patient must fully comply with those instructions.



Taking Pictures

Much like when an MRI test is done to visualize the brain, liver, or spine, a cardiac MRI scan at rest begins with obtaining static images that assess the anatomy of the heart and of the large blood vessels that flow in and out of it.

Similar to an echocardiogram procedure, continuous images of the patient’s heart (Cine Module), comparable to those in a video presentation, are acquired from multiple angles for a three-dimensional evaluation of the heart and its ability to contract normally.


A Substance that Improves Image Quality

The photos obtained afterward make it possible to have a more in-depth analysis of the patient's heart muscle composition.

Halfway through the exam, the technologist injects gadolinium, a contrast fluid agent, into the patient’s forearm IV line, installed at the very beginning of the procedure. The technologist returns to the control room and resumes testing.


What Happens Next?

The technologist removes the catheter.

The patient gets dressed and goes home.

The results are sent to the patient’s doctor.


Copy of the Results for Another Doctor

The patient may ask that a copy of the results be sent to another doctor as well.

He should simply provide the technologist with the name and contact information of this second physician, either before or after the exam.