Magnetic resonance angiography

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)

Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) is a non-invasive imaging technique that can provide detailed images of blood vessels by using a magnetic field and radio waves. It helps to evaluate different conditions of the blood vessels in the body including blockages, aneurysms, and other abnormalities. It is commonly used to evaluate the arteries or veins in the head, arms, abdomen, legs, and neck.

Preparation For MRA

Prior to the MRA, patients may need to discontinue blood thinning medications. They may also have to change into a gown and wear headphones to communicate with the MRI technician. It is important to inform the doctor of any existing medical conditions or concerns as very rarely people with claustrophobia, fear of enclosed spaces, may have difficulty with the MRI. It is also important that they remain still with minimal movement for the whole duration of the scan.

Procedure For MRA

The MRA procedure itself is usually painless and takes about 30 to 90 minutes. During the MRA, the patient is inserted into the MRI and then the MRI scans the area of interest creating images of the blood vessels. Depending on the provider, a contrast material may be injected to better evaluate certain conditions. The scans are then reviewed by a radiologist.

Types Of MRA

There are several types of MRA that can be used for different purposes. The most common types are:

  • Time-of-flight (TOF) MRA – this type measures the time it takes for the radio waves to travel from a certain point to another a certain distance by.
  • Phase-contrast MRA – this type uses an MR which measures differences in the direction and speed of the flow of a blood vessels.
  • Arterial Spin-labeling MRA – this type uses radio frequency pulses to produce an artificial magnetic field.
  • 2D-MRA – this type uses one slice of the MRI to produce images.
  • 3D-MRA – this type uses multiple slices of the MRI to produce images.

Risks and Side-effects Of MRA

The MRA is considered a very safe procedure with very few side effects. The most common side effect is mild discomfort caused by the strong magnetic field and associated noise. Very rarely, there may be skin irritation from the needle puncture for contrast material injection, or an allergic reaction to the contrast material.

Why Is MRA Performed?

MRA is an important tool in diagnosing and monitoring different medical conditions such as stroke, aneurysms, blood clots, aortic dissections, and certain types of cancer. It is also important in evaluating the effectiveness of treatments.

When Is MRA Performed?

MRA is usually recommended when a doctor suspects a patient has an underlying medical condition that needs further evaluation. It emphasizes in providing detailed images of blood vessels and is often used to supplement or replace other diagnostic tests such as X-ray or CT scans.