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MRA with or without Contrast

Your doctor has suggested you have an MRA as part of the evaluation at National Jewish Health. An MRA is done using the MRI scanner. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an advanced medical imaging technique that does not use x-ray or radiation. Instead it uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed images of internal body structures. An MRA is used to obtain detailed images of blood vessels and blood flow.


Preparing for the Test

  • Inform your doctor if you have any of these items: a pacemaker, aneurysm clips, metallic implants, metal fragments in your eyes or any other electronic or magnetically activated implant. If you have any of these items it may not be possible, or safe, to have an MRI scan.
  • If your MRI requires the injection of a contrast agent, blood work will need to be done before your MRI to make sure your kidneys are working well.
  • If you are claustrophobic or experience pain when lying on your back let your doctor know before the day of your MRI. Your doctor can prescribe a relaxant or pain medication.
  • If your doctor has you take a relaxant medication, arrange for a companion (family member or friend) to pick you up after your MRI. You will not be able to drive or take a taxi home after the test if you take a relaxant medication.
  • If you are pregnant or breast feeding, please notify your doctor before scheduling the MRI.


Day of the Test

  • There are no food or drink restrictions. Continue to take your normal medications unless your doctor directs you otherwise.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Avoid wearing clothing that has metal zippers, snaps, hooks, safety pins, under wires or metal threads. You can be given scrubs to wear if this is not possible. Metallic objects such as hair barrettes, hairpins, jewelry and watches will need to be removed before entering the MRI room. You will be provided with a secure locker to lock up your purse, wallet, cards with magnetic strips, keys, cell phones, beepers, coins, etc.


During the Test

  • When you arrive in radiology you will be asked to fill out a screening form asking about anything that might create a health risk or interfere with imaging.
  • The MR technologist will explain the MRI scan to you before you start. Ask questions if you don’t understand. Eyeglasses, dentures, shoes and foil lined medication patches will need to be removed before the imaging. You will be required to wear earplugs or headphones to protect your hearing from the loud noise produced during the scan. For most exams, you can listen to music through the headphones.
  • You will lie down on a padded scanning table that glides you into a large, tubular machine. The inside of the scanner is well lit and has a fan to blow fresh air gently over you. The technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times using a 2-way intercom. The machine makes a rhythmic knocking and thumping sounds as it takes the images.
  • Your doctor may request that you receive an injection of a contrast agent called “gadolinium”. If you are having an MRA with contrast, the technologist will start an IV in your arm. Unlike contrast agents used in x-ray studies, MRI contrast agents do not contain iodine and rarely cause allergic reactions or other problems.
  • MRI images are very sensitive to movement. Some scans require you to hold your breath for 15-20 seconds. You will be asked to remain perfectly still during the time the imaging takes place. By keeping very still during the scan you can improve the quality of the images we obtain.


After the Test

You can resume your normal activity after the test is complete.

An MRA takes between 30-60 minutes, depending upon the part of the body being imaged and the information requested by your doctor.

Your appointment is in the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (Radiology). You will be directed where to go when you check in. If you have any questions you may contact Advanced Biomedical Imaging (Radiology) at 303.398.1611.


This information has been approved by Will Cook, ARRT, MA and Eric Yager, ARRT, BS (January 2013).

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