A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) is a noninvasive test that allows your provider to see your blood vessels and blood flow. They can use an MR angiogram to diagnose a condition, such as atherosclerosis or blood clots. They can do MRA testing with or without a contrast dye. An MRA is an alternative to an invasive angiogram.
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is an imaging test that shows your blood vessels and blood flow. An MRA can detect narrowing or blockages in your arteries in a noninvasive way.
You can have a non-enhanced MRA or a contrast-enhanced MRA. Images can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional.
Both of these are noninvasive imaging methods providers can use to see your blood vessels. However, a CT (computed tomography) angiogram is faster than an MRA. Also, they use different kinds of contrast materials. A CT angiogram exposes you to radiation during the scan. An MRA doesn’t use radiation.
An MRA is a type of MRI. They use the same magnetic resonance imaging machine. An MRA uses an MRI to create images of your blood vessels. Also, a provider can use IV contrast to enhance imaging of your arterial system. An MRI can make images of your blood vessels, organs or even your whole body.
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Your healthcare provider can use MRA testing to diagnose a problem, such as a narrow artery. Also, they can use the information from an MRA scan to plan a surgery or check out an artery for a bypass graft.
They can use a magnetic resonance angiogram to look at your:
Your provider can use an MRA test to diagnose multiple conditions, including:
An MRI technologist performs an MRA. They’ll make sure you’re in the right position for the required image. They’ll also explain the procedure, operate the MRI machine, give you the contrast in an IV and communicate with you during your MRA scan.
An MRA uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create images. Your provider can see these images on a computer. Unlike an X-ray, an MRA doesn’t use radiation. It gets information from energy your body gives off in a magnetic field.
Yes, it can. This is called a non-enhanced or non-contrast MRA.
An MRA test can take 20 to 60 minutes. However, it takes a few minutes to put in an IV and get into position in the machine.
Your provider will ask you questions to make sure you don’t have any metal in your body that could be a hazard during an MRA. This could be a medical device or a foreign object from an accident.
Some devices are safe to use in an MRI. Others aren’t. Your provider can check to see if it’s safe for you to have an MRI. Show them your medical device card if you have one.
If you get uncomfortable in tight spaces, ask your provider for a sedative that you can take before your MRA scan.
Tell your provider if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding (chestfeeding). Also, tell them about any health issues, allergies or surgeries you’ve had. If you have kidney or liver disease, your provider may not be able to use contrast for your scan.
Follow your provider’s instructions for eating, drinking and taking medicine before your MRA test.
Wear comfortable clothes that don’t have metal in or on them. You can change into hospital clothing that doesn’t have zippers or any other metal.
Leave your watch, wallet and jewelry at home or put them in a hospital locker. An MRI can damage credit cards and send metals flying.
During an MRA, your provider will:
If you took a sedative to relax, you’ll need someone to drive you home.
If you didn’t take a sedative, you can drive yourself and go back to work or other activities right away.
MRA testing is noninvasive and painless. You may feel a pinch when they put the IV in your arm.
Some people can have side effects from the contrast (dye), such as a headache, upset stomach or allergic reaction. This is rare.
People who have kidney failure are at risk of a rare condition called nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. The contrast agent can cause this condition, and it can be life-threatening.
Yes, an MRA is safe. It doesn’t use radiation. An MRA doesn’t put anything into your body other than a contrast dye. People who are at risk of problems from the dye can have the scan without it.
Your provider will tell you if you have an issue in your blood vessels or other area they were examining. Based on your symptoms, they may have been looking for a certain condition. An MRA can confirm that you have a condition and show how severe it is.
It will most likely take a few days for a radiologist to review your MRA scan and send the results to your provider.
Contact your provider if you have a reaction to the contrast agent or if you haven’t received results a week after your MRA test.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An MRA gives your healthcare provider valuable information about your body. This helps them make a diagnosis so you can get the care you need. An MRI machine can appear large and intimidating, but it’s harmless. You can wear headphones to soften the noise and take a sedative if the tight space makes you uncomfortable. The only thing you’ll feel going into your body is an IV if you’re receiving a contrast dye.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/15/2022.
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