- Heart Home
- Quality Answers
FIND A DOCTOR
You may not have an MRI if you have:
- a pacemaker
- brain aneurysm clips
- certain artificial heart valves
- inner ear (cochlear) implants
- recently placed artificial joints
- some older types of vascular stents
Click here to read more about preparing for the test.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnets and radio waves to take pictures of your heart. It does not use radiation like x-rays and CT scans do.
The MRI scanner contains the magnet. An MRI produces an extremely powerful magnetic field. This magnetic field forces your body’s hydrogen atoms to line up. Radio waves are sent to these atoms. The atoms then bounce back, and a computer records the signal. The MRI tracks different signals from different types of tissue.
What to Expect
You will wear a hospital gown and be asked to remove any metal jewelry. You will lie on your back on a padded table. This table slides into a large tunnel. It’s important to lie still so that the images aren’t blurred.
A cardiac MRI is simple, easy and safe. Your MRI scan will probably take no more than an hour. At Vanderbilt, we provide stereo headphones for you to listen to music of your choice during the scan.
A heart MRI exam causes no pain. If you have difficulty lying still or are anxious, we can give you a mild sedative. There is no recovery time, unless sedation was necessary. (You will need someone to drive you home if sedation was given.) After an MRI scan, you can resume your normal diet, activity, and medications, unless your doctor says otherwise.
Why the Test is Performed
A cardiac MRI scan provides detailed pictures of the heart and blood vessels from many views. This helps us diagnose:
- heart muscle damage after a heart attack
- birth defects of the heart
- heart tumors and growths
In addition, a cardiac MRI may provide additional information when an echocardiogram is unclear.