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Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)

A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) is a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body. In many cases MRA can provide information that can't be obtained from an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan.

MRA can find problems with the blood vessels that may be causing reduced blood flow. With MRA, both the blood flow and the condition of the blood vessel walls can be seen. The test is often used to look at the blood vessels that go to the brain, kidneys, and legs. Information from an MRA can be saved and stored on a computer for further study. Photographs camera.gif of selected views can also be made.

During MRA, the area of the body being studied is placed inside an MRI machine. Contrast material is often used during MRA to make blood vessels show up more clearly.

Why It Is Done

A magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) is done to look for:

  • A bulge (aneurysm), clot, or the buildup of fat and calcium deposits (stenosis caused by plaque) in the blood vessels leading to the brain.
  • An aneurysm or tear (dissection) in the aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
  • Narrowing (stenosis) of the blood vessels leading to the heart, lungs, kidneys, or legs.

How To Prepare

Before a magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), tell your doctor and the MRI technologist if you:

  • Are allergic to any medicines. The contrast material used for MRA does not contain iodine. If you know that you are allergic to the contrast material used for MRA, tell your doctor before having another test.
  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Have any metal implanted in your body. This information helps your doctor know if the test is safe for you. Tell your doctor if you have:
    • Heart and blood vessel devices such as a coronary artery stent, pacemaker, ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), or metal heart valve.
    • Metal pins, clips, or metal parts in your body, including artificial limbs and dental work or braces.
    • Any other implanted medical device, such as a medicine infusion pump.
    • Cosmetic metal implants, such as in your ears.
  • Have an intrauterine device (IUD) in place. An IUD may prevent you from having the MRA test done.
  • Become very nervous in small spaces. You need to lie very still inside the MRI machine, so you may need to have the test done with open MRI equipment. It is not as confining as standard MRI machines. You may need medicine to help you relax. Some blood vessels may not be seen clearly with an open MRI scanner.
  • Have any other health conditions, such as kidney problems or sickle cell anemia, that may prevent you from having an MRA using contrast material.
  • Wear any medicine patches. The MRI may cause a burn at the patch site.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 13, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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