The Value of MRA
Did you know that there are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body? With that number, it can be a little daunting for a physician to diagnose a vascular health issue. Fortunately, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) can greatly assist your physician in understanding the health of your veins and arteries. An MRA shows how your blood flows through your vessels and helps determine if your veins may be blocked, narrowing, bulging, or ruptured.
What makes MRAs special is that the images show only the vessels themselves. Tissue, muscle, and skin do not show up on the image. These clear and clutter-free images show blood flow in exquisite detail, and are used to help detect stroke and many health issues related to the brain, kidneys, pelvis, lungs, heart, neck, arms and legs.
MRA Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the uses of MRA?
- Identify weakened or damaged blood vessels in the aorta that can lead to aneurysms (ruptures).
- Detect disease in the carotid artery of the neck, which may limit blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.
- Identify small aneurysms or vascular malformations in the brain.
- Detect disease that has narrowed the arteries to the legs.
- Assist in the diagnosis of renal arterial disease, liver damage, and kidney malfunction.
- Guide surgeons in making repairs to diseased blood vessels, such as implanting or evaluating a stent.
- Evaluate the details of arteries feeding a tumor prior to surgery.
- Screen individuals for arterial disease, especially those with a family history of arterial disease or disorders.
- How is an MRA performed?
Using high-field scanners, the preparation and procedures for an MRA are the same an MRI. Your physician may even order both types of scans, and they will be completed in consecutive order during the same examination. Typically, a contrast solution called gadolinium is injected intravenously to help highlight the vessels.
- What are the advantages of MRA?
- MRA is a noninvasive imaging technique that does not involve exposure to radiation.
- An MRA is less expensive than a traditional catheter angiogram.
- Detailed images of blood vessels and blood flow are obtained without having to insert a catheter into a vein, so there is no risk of damaging an artery.
- The MRA procedure takes less time than a traditional catheter angiogram.
- An MRA may eliminate the need for surgery. If surgery remains necessary, it can be performed more accurately.
- Can I move during the MRA scan?
Relax and try to lie as still as possible for optimal image quality. Any movement can blur the images.
- How long does the exam take?
Plan for approximately an hour and a half for your MRA appointment. Actual scanning time will take between 30-60 minutes depending on the type of exam. Please note: if you are having multiple scans, the exam time will take longer.
- Will a contrast agent (dye) be given for my MRA scan?
Gadolinium-based contrast can provide additional valuable information for many MRI or MRA examinations and is commonly used to highlight specific body regions or areas of your vascular system. However, OAI has closely monitored new findings regarding the disease known as Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis or Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy (NSF/NFD), which may occur in rare instances in patients with moderate to end-stage kidney disease after they have had a MRI or MRA scan with a gadolinium-based contrast agent.To ensure the highest quality service and care, OAI has adopted the screening guidelines recommended by the American College of Radiology (ACR) regarding administration of contrast during an MRI or MRA exam.
When scheduling your appointment you will be asked if you have any of the following conditions:
- Kidney problems/renal disease
- Hepatic disease/liver transplant/pending liver transplant
- On prescription medication for hypertension
- On prescription medication for diabetes
- Age 60 or older
If any of the above risk factors apply, OAI will request a blood test to determine your BUN/Creatinine level and estimated GFR. If your GFR is lower than 60, the radiologist will review your medical history, evaluate the risks and benefits of contrast administration, and discuss the situation with your ordering physician if deemed necessary. OAI staff will explain the radiologist’s decision at the time of your appointment.
MRA Exam Preparation
At Oregon Advanced Imaging, we aim to ensure you receive the highest level of imaging service. Our caring staff will work to make your experience as comfortable and easy as possible. We offer a MRA exam preparation guide to best prepare for your visit.
- Getting Ready for your MRA
- Our staff will contact you prior to your scheduled appointment for pre-registration and/or confirmation. Due to MRI and MRA technology, it is important to let our schedulers know if you have any metal implants, such as a pacemaker.
- We recommend contacting your insurance company regarding benefits and coverage prior to your appointment date. Please bring your insurance information (i.e. medical insurance cards, worker’s compensation info, etc.), along with your driver’s license or other form of I.D.
- Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be asked to pay a small percentage of your scanning fee on the day of your exam. Our billing department can provide the estimated amount prior to your appointment. Please call our billing department at 541-608-0350 for assistance. We gladly accept MasterCard, Visa, checks or cash.
- You may eat, drink, and take medications as usual, unless you are advised differently.
- Wear comfortable clothing with no metal (zippers, buttons, etc.). In some instances, OAI will supply you with comfortable pants and a gown. Please remove all other metal items such as jewelry, watches, hearing aids, etc. A secure storage locker is provided for your convenience.
- Please allow approximately an hour and a half for your MRI or MRA appointment. Actual scanning time will take between 30-60 minutes depending on the type of exam. Please note: if you are having multiple scans, the exam time will take longer.
- What to Expect During Your MRA Exam
- Our expert staff will make sure you are comfortable during every phase of the exam. Should you have any concerns, you will be able to communicate with the technologists throughout the exam via a two-way intercom system.
- During the exam you will hear loud thumping sounds, but will feel no physical sensations. The loud thumping is inherent in all MR scanning machines, but may surprise you when you first hear it. There is no need for alarm as the sound is normal. Ear plugs and music headphones are available at all of our imaging centers. You are also welcome to bring your own audio CD to listen to during your exam. Please note: the 3 Tesla MRI scanner does not play personal audio CDs, but does offer a wide selection of music to choose from.
[Click here](#) to hear what an MR scanner sounds like
- For optimal imaging quality, during the scan you will need to remain as still as possible.
- The technologists will provide pillows and support pads to make you as comfortable as possible during your procedure. In some instances, an IV tube will be placed in your arm to administer gadolinium, which is a contrast agent that helps create better images in specific MRIs and MRAs. If contrast is used, OAI may request a blood test to confirm your kidneys are functioning sufficiently.
- The MRI scanner has adequate space for most people. If you have difficulty with confined areas, call us in advance for assistance at 541-608-0350. If you will be taking a sedative prescribed by your physician, or receiving sedation, please plan to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.
- Our radiologists will promptly interpret your MRI images and send a report directly to your doctor. Your doctor will contact you with your exam results in approximately 3-5 workdays.
MRA can greatly assist your physician in understanding the health of your veins and arteries by showing how your blood flows through your vessels and helping determine if your veins may be blocked, narrowing, bulging, or ruptured. The clear and clutter-free images are used to help detect stroke and many other health issues related to the brain, kidneys, pelvis, lungs, heart, neck, arms and legs.