Magnetic resonance angiography

Medical, MRA • 29 Nov 2011

Magnetic resonance angiography, or MRA, is a medical test which contributes to a doctor’s ability to diagnose medical conditions and prescribe suitable treatments. The angiography employs state-of-the-art imaging technology methods to generate pictures of the blood vessels so that any abnormality, such as narrowing (‘stenosis’) or dialations (‘aneurysms’) can be detected. The most commonly imaged areas of the body are the blood vessels in the heart, lungs, abdomen (particularly the kidney and liver), pelvis, brain, neck, and legs. MRA entails the use of a very powerful magnetic field and the projection of radio waves, in order to produce highly detailed images on a computer which can then be analyzed by a medical professional. Angiography using magnetic resonance may be performed with or without the use of contrast material, which is administered via an injection in the arm, and may contribute to the clarity of the imaging, particularly in very narrow blood vessels.

Angiography that uses magnetic resonance may be used for a variety of diagnostic purposes. It is employed to detect artherosclerosis disease, which occurs in the carotid artery and causes diminished oxygen flow to the brain, increasing the risk of strokes. Disease in the arteries to the kidneys or damage to arteries in the extremities, neck, chest, pelvis or abdomen due to trauma can also be mapped using MRA. Obstructions to the blood vessels can be evaluated to assess their size and severity. The imaging is also frequently used before highly invasive surgery to guide interventional radiologists and surgical teams who will repair blood vessels, e.g. by implanting a stent.

Patients are prepared for MRA in different ways, depending on the intensity and type of imaging planned. The procedure is usually performed as an outpatient examination. The patient is positioned on an examination table which is movable, and straps may be used to inhibit movement. This is because clear imaging requires that movement be kept to a minimum. Devices holding coils which can send and receive radio waves may be coiled around or laid next to the site being studied.

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