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Cardiac MRI Exams

Preparing for Your Cardiac MRI Exam







What should I expect BEFORE my Cardiac MRI exam?


It is important for you to bring a list of your current medications with you, so we will know what you may have taken prior to your Cardiac MRI exam.

Food and Drink

For most Cardiac MRI exams you are required to be fasting (no food/drink) for 6 hours and caffeine free for 24 hours, this includes refraining from decaffeinated drinks. If you are taking theophylline, this should NOT be taken for 48 hours prior to your MRI. For the exceptions, instructions will be given at the time your appointment is scheduled.

When to Arrive

For all Cardiac MRI exams, you will be asked to arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled scan time. This will allow you to complete any necessary paperwork, change into a gown and discuss/prepare for your exam with the technologist and nurse.

What to Wear

For all Cardiac MRI exams, you will be required to change into a hospital gown. We will provide you with a locker to secure your clothes. It would be best to leave jewelry and other valuables at home. You will be required to remove hearing aids and eyeglasses prior to your Cardiac MRI scan.

Intravenous Preparation

Most Cardiac MRI exams require the administration of a contrast agent in order to obtain clearer, more detailed images of the area being scanned. If your exam is ordered with contrast, we will place an IV in your arm, usually before you enter the scan room. If you are scheduled to receive a stress drug, Adenosine or Dobutamine, you will require an additional IV that will be placed prior to entering the scan room as well. 


Dilates (widens) normal arteries. This helps blood get to the heart quickly. The drug cannot dilate a blocked artery, so blood flow is delayed to that part of the heart.


Makes your heart beat stronger and faster. Heart muscle that gets less blood and oxygen from a blocked artery will not beat as strong.

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What will I experience DURING my Cardiac MRI exam?


After you have removed all metal objects, the technologist will escort you into the scanner room and position you on the scanning table. Your head will be placed in a padded plastic cradle or on a pillow and the table will slide into the scanner.

The part of your body being scanned will be placed in the center of the tunnel. The technologist will leave the room, but they can see you through the observation window and will communicate with you periodically during the scan through an intercom. While the scanner is taking your pictures, you will hear rapidly repeating, loud thumping noises coming from the walls of the scanner, therefore earplugs will be provided.

Any movement, especially of your head or back during this time will seriously blur the pictures. During scanning, you should breathe quietly and normally, but otherwise refrain from any movement, coughing or wiggling. Some exams may require you to hold your breath for a short time and the technologist will give you instructions if this is necessary.

When the thumping noise stops, the pictures will be processing and you may relax for a few seconds, but you must refrain from changing your position or moving about. This will usually be repeated several times and the entire exam ordinarily takes between 45 and 60 minutes to complete.

Contrast Material

If your exam was ordered with the use of contrast, a trained technologist or nurse will administer it through the IV in your arm about halfway through the exam. MRI contrast is very safe and usually does not cause any allergic reactions.

Recent information from the FDA suggests using caution when administering MRI contrast to any patient that has a history of renal (kidney) problems. If you have any renal problems, and your doctor has requested an exam with contrast, please tell the doctor that you will need lab work within 14 days prior to your MRI exam.

Based on your lab results and the type of MRI exam that is ordered, our radiologist will determine whether the contrast can be safely administered to you.

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What should I expect AFTER my Cardiac MRI exam?

You will not have any restrictions upon completion of your MRI exam and may resume your normal activities unless you received sedation. If so, you will be given specific instructions before you leave the department.

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MRI Exam Results

All MRI exams are read by the Wake Forest University Health Science Radiologists/Cardiologists trained in MR imaging and dedicated to your specific body part scanned. They will read your exam within 24 hours and the results will be sent to the doctor that ordered your exam. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you and what they mean in relation to your health. 

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Last Updated: 09-16-2016
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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