What is a cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test?

Cardiac MRI is a noninvasive way of evaluating the heart’s structure and function. Cardiac MRI is an imaging method that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the heart. It doesn’t use radiation (X-rays).

Single MRI images are called slices. The images can be stored on a computer or printed on film. One exam produces dozens or sometimes hundreds of images.

Saint Luke’s is currently studying cardiac MRI in assessing cardiomyopathies, myocardial viability, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, and right and left ventricular function.

What should I expect during the cardiac MRI exam?

You will be positioned on the examination table and several devices may be placed on or around your chest to help with the imaging acquisition. For example:

  • Devices that contain coils capable of sending/receiving radio waves will be placed around your chest.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) leads may be placed on your chest.
  • A respiratory gating belt that helps a computer track your breathing rate may be placed around your upper abdomen.
  • If a contrast material is used, a nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm.

You will be moved into the magnet of the MRI unit, and the technologist will leave the room while the MRI examination is performed. The technologist will still be able to see, hear, and talk with you using a two-way intercom during the exam.

For some studies, you may be asked to hold your breath while the images are recorded. You will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You can relax between imaging sequences, but you will be asked to remain as still as possible during the exam.

When the examination is completed, you may be asked to wait until the technologist or radiologist makes sure no additional views are needed.

The entire examination typically takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete. This test requires that you have a referral from your cardiologist or from your primary care physician. If the test is normal, you will have the results within four to five working days. You will be notified immediately if any problems are found.

Contact us

For questions or referrals, email CardiacMRI@saint-lukes.org or call 816-751-8450.