What Is MRA?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 17, 2022
3 min read


An MRA is a test that lets your doctor see inside your blood vessels -- your arteries and veins. MRA stands for Magnetic Resonance Angiogram or Magnetic Resonance Angiography.

Your doctor may ask you to get one in order to look for and treat problems with your blood vessels.

The test can check the blood vessels in many different parts of your body:

Your doctor may order this exam for different reasons that include:

  • Check for aneurysms or weakened blood vessels
  • Find plaque that blocks or narrows blood vessels
  • Look for problems with the structure of your blood vessels
  • Help to prepare for surgery, or check results after surgery
  • Locate injured blood vessels after an accident
  • Help with cancer treatment
  • Diagnose blood clots

You will get instructions, usually from the place where you’ll have your MRA. Make sure you understand the directions and follow them closely. They may include information about:

  • Whether you can eat or drink before the test
  • If it’s OK to take your usual medicines
  • What you may wear and what you will need to take off

The MRA equipment includes a magnetic field. So you’ll need to take off anything metal, such as:

Make sure you tell your doctor or the staff at the MRA facility if you:

  • Have medical problems, like kidney disease
  • Are allergic to anything
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have any medical devices or implants, like heart valves, drug ports, artificial limbs or joints, metal pins, screws, plates, staples or stents

Also let them know if you have other metal:

  • Left from an accident or injury
  • In some tattoo dye
  • From dental work

MRA is safe for people with most types of metal implants, except:

  • Some cardiac defibrillators
  • Some pacemakers
  • Cochlear or ear implants
  • Some clips for brain aneurysm repair
  • Some coils for blood vessel repair

Tell your doctor, too, if you’re afraid of closed or small spaces. They may give you medicine before the test to help you relax. If so, you’ll need someone to drive you home after the exam.

For the MRA, you will lie on an exam table that slides into a large circular area, the magnetic field. The actual equipment may be different depending on where you get the test done. Some types allow little room to move. Newer designs have more room or open sides. The technologist will help you get into the correct position to start the test.

You will have to stay still during the test and may be asked to hold your breath at times. During the MRA, you and the technologist will be able to talk to each other.

The technologist will take several images. The equipment makes very loud tapping or pounding noises, so you may wear ear plugs or headphones to help soften the sounds.

For some exams, you will get a special dye injected into one of your veins. It helps to make the images even clearer and more detailed.

This type of dye usually doesn’t cause allergic reactions, unlike some that contain iodine. 

When you are done, the technologist will return to the exam room and slide you out of the scanner. They will remove the IV if you had dye for your test.

Unless you had medicine to help you relax, you can usually get back to your normal activities. If you had the medication then you may need to rest. You won’t be able to drive until it wears off.

Your doctor will call you with the results of the exam. You may have more tests, depending on the findings.