What is a cardiac MRI and do I need one?

Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital now offering cardiac MRI

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthCardiac MRI is now available at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital. The versatile tool is used to diagnose many cardiac conditions and is the best test available to understand in full detail the structure of the heart. Northwestern Medicine’s imaging systems are fully integrated across the health system’s campuses. This allows radiologists practicing at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital to easily collaborate electronically with colleagues across the health network, including downtown at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Why would a cardiologist order a cardiac MRI?
Cardiac MRI can test for multiple indications including evaluation of heart failure, potential cardiac masses, valve disease, a blood clot in the heart, or acute cardiac injury such as myocarditis. It can also be used as part of an arrythmia work-up or treatment planning prior to ablations.

How does the test work? How long does it take?
MRI generates images using a very strong magnetic field. Patients lie flat and are placed in the center of the MRI scanner which looks like a round tube. A special piece of equipment called a coil is placed on their chest. These signals are sent to a computer where they are used to build an image of the part of the body being scanned. The images are then reviewed by a cardiac imaging expert. Most cardiac MRIs require intravenous injection of gadolinium contrast agent. The test takes 60-90 minutes to complete.

Are there any risks?
Because the MRI machine uses very strong magnets, patients cannot bring anything metal into the scanner. All patients will be screened for metal implants or other metal objects that could be unsafe in the scanner. Patients with ICD or pacemakers usually can undergo MRI but require special settings to be used on their device. There is no ionizing radiation associated with MRI so pregnant women can undergo MRI safely but cannot receive gadolinium. Patients with poor kidney function may not be eligible to receive gadolinium.

To make a cardiology appointment at Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital, please call 708-923-4200 or visit heart.nm.org.

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