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Benefits and Risks – Heart and Vascular Cardiac MRI Scan


  • Heart and vascular cardiac MRI scanning is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not involve exposure to ionizing radiation.
  • Cardiac MRI scan images of the heart are generally better than other imaging methods for certain conditions. This advantage makes MR imaging an invaluable tool in early diagnosis and evaluation of certain cardiac abnormalities, especially those involving the heart muscle.
  • A heart and vascular cardiac MRI scan has proven valuable in diagnosing a broad range of conditions, including cardiovascular anatomical anomalies (e.g., congenital defects), functional abnormalities (e.g., valve failure), tumors and conditions related to coronary artery disease.
  • MR imaging can be used during certain interventional procedures, such as catheter-based ablation procedures to treat irregular heart rhythms, including atrial fibrillation. The use of MR imaging can substantially shorten the time required to perform these procedures, resulting in better accuracy.
  • Heart and vascular cardiac MR imaging enables the discovery of abnormalities that might be obscured by bone with other imaging methods.
  • The contrast material used in a cardiac MRI scan is less likely to produce an allergic reaction than the iodine-based contrast materials used for conventional x-rays and CT scanning.
  • Cardiac MR imaging allows evaluation of the structures and function of the heart and major vessels without risks of exposure to radiation typically associated with traditional, more invasive procedures.


  • A heart and vascular cardiac MRI scan poses almost no risk to the average patient when appropriate safety guidelines are followed.
  • There is a very slight risk of an allergic reaction if contrast material is injected.
  • Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis is currently a recognized, but rare, complication of cardiac MR imaging and believed to be caused by the injection of high doses of gadolinium contrast material in patients with very poor kidney function.
  • Women should always inform their SMIL radiologist if there is any possibility she is pregnant.

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