Chest MRI

Chest MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the chest is a diagnostic imaging test that examines internal organs and structures of the chest. MRI scans use radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of the chest and nearby anatomic structures. A chest MRI is typically used to detect abnormalities or changes in the lungs, heart, blood vessels, bones, or surrounding tissues.

Preparation for Chest MRI

Before an MRI scan of the chest is performed, it is important for the patient to talk to their doctor about all medications they are taking or any other medical conditions they have. Depending on the reason for the scan, additional information may be requested or special preparation prescribed. Generally, it is advised for the patient to wear comfortable clothing and refrain from wearing any metal objects that can interfere with the images, including jewelry, piercings, and watches.

Procedure and Types of Chest MRI

During a chest MRI, the patient lays on their back while the machine creates a strong magnetic field. The radiology technologist may administer a contrast agent (dye) either through an intravenous line (IV) or injectable form to enhance the images of specific organs and tissues. This dye helps to better distinguish it from other areas. An IV contrast agent typically is used for a look at the circulatory system. The dye may cause a slight burning sensation, resulting in warm sensations throughout the body, as well as a metallic taste in the mouth. An MRI of the chest can include any of the following:

  • MRI pulmonary angiography: Examines the pulmonary arteries and veins
  • Short axis MRI: Evaluates the function and performance of the heart
  • Abdominal-thoracic MRI: Allows for a simultaneous view of both the chest and abdominal area
  • MRI spectroscopy: Examines the chemical composition of tissues
  • MR enterography: Examines the small intestine

Risks of Chest MRI

In general, MRI scans are safe and no known serious risks are associated with the procedure. However, because of the strong magnetic field, people with certain types of implanted devices, such as a pacemaker, may not be able to have an MRI of the chest. MRI scans can be longer and more difficult for people with claustrophobia. If this is a concern, the patient should talk to the doctor or technologist before the scan.

Why Is a Chest MRI Done?

A chest MRI may be useful to detect or diagnose numerous conditions, including but not limited to the following:

  • Lung cancer
  • Lung diseases, such as pneumonia, COPD, or interstitial lung disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Abnormalities of the chest wall, such as masses
  • Injury or trauma to the chest
  • Inflammation or infection of the thoracic cavity
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Blood vessel conditions

When Is a Chest MRI done?

A chest MRI is usually performed when other imaging tests, such as x-rays, are not providing the necessary or desired information. This imaging test is also useful in follow-up assessments for those who have already had treatment for their condition, such as cancer or heart problems.