Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging. It uses powerful magnets to look inside the body. Computer-generated pictures can show the heart muscle, identify damage from a heart attack, diagnose certain congenital cardiovascular defects and evaluate disease of larger blood vessels such as the aorta. It can outline the affected part of the brain and help define the problems created by stroke.
Unlike radiographic imaging methods, MRI:
- Is non-ionizing and has no known biological hazards
- Can produce high-resolution images of the heart's chambers and large vessels without the need for contrast agents
- Is intrinsically three-dimensional
- Produces images of cardiovascular structures without interference from adjacent bone or air
- Has high tissue contrast.
MRI is an acceptable technique for evaluating diseases of the aorta such as:
- Dissection, aneurysm and coarctation
- Diseases of the pericardium such as constrictive pericarditis or hematoma
- Congenital cardiac lesions before or after surgical repair
- Heart muscle diseases, including those affecting the right ventricle such as dysplasia
- Cardiac masses such as intracardiac tumor or invasive lung malignancy.