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Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

Woman lying on back on scanner table. Healthcare provider is standing next to woman preparing to slide table into ring-shaped scanner.

Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is an imaging test. It uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to create images of blood vessels throughout your body. It uses both strong magnets and radio waves to form an image that can be viewed on a computer.

Why MRA is done

MRA may be used to:

  • Check arteries in your neck, chest, belly (abdomen), pelvis, arms, legs, or brain

  • Look for a ballooning of the blood vessel wall (aneurysm), narrowing of the blood vessel (stenosis), or tear in the blood vessel (dissection)

  • Find damage to your arteries caused by injuries

Getting ready for your test

  • You may need to stop eating or drinking before your test. Each health care facility has its own guidelines on this. It also depends on the type of exam you are having. Ask your health care provider if you should stop eating or drinking before your test.

  • Ask your provider if you should stop taking any medicine before your test.

  • Follow your normal daily routine unless your provider tells you otherwise. 

  • Most MRI tests take 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on the type of MRI you are having, the test may take longer. Give yourself extra time to check in.

MRI uses strong magnets. Metal is affected by magnets and can distort the image. The magnet used in MRI can cause metal objects in your body to move. If you have a metal implant, you may not be able to have an MRI unless the implant is certified as MRI safe. People with these implants should not have an MRI:

  • Ear (cochlear) implants

  • Certain clips used for brain aneurysms

  • Certain metal coils put in blood vessels

  • Most defibrillators

  • Most pacemakers

Be sure to tell your provider if you:

  • Have any serious health problems. This includes kidney disease or a liver transplant. You may not be able to have the dye (contrast material) used for MRI.

  • Are breastfeeding 

  • Have had any previous surgeries

  • Have a pacemaker, surgical clips, metal plate or pins, an artificial joint, staples or screws, ear (cochlear) implants, or other implants

  • Wear a medicated adhesive patch

  • Have metal splinters in your body

  • Have implanted nerve stimulators or drug-infusion ports

  • Have tattoos or body piercings. Some tattoo inks contain metal.

  • Work with metal

  • Have braces. You must remove any dental work.

  • Have a bullet or other metal in your body

Also tell your provider if:

  • You are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

  • You tend to be afraid of small, enclosed spaces (are claustrophobic)

  • You are allergic to X-ray dye, iodine, shellfish, or any medicines

  • You wear a medicated adhesive patch

During your test

  • You’ll be asked to remove your watch, jewelry, hearing aids, credit cards, pens, pocket knives, eyeglasses, and other metal objects.

  • You may be asked to remove your makeup. Makeup may contain some metal.

  • You may change into a hospital gown. An IV (intravenous) line may be set up.

  • You will lie down on a platform that slides into the MRI machine.

  • At times, the magnet may be within a few inches of your face. It is normal for the MRI machine to make loud knocking noises during some parts of the exam.

  • Several studies may be done. Dye may be injected into your vein through an IV line for some of the studies.

After your test

  • If you were injected with dye, drink plenty of fluids to help flush it from your body.

  • Your provider will discuss the results with you when they are ready.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/12/2015
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