MR Angiography of Head and Neck

If you or someone you love has had a blood clot, stroke, heart disease, or similar health problem, your doctor may recommend a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) exam.
Similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an MRA is a test that allows your doctor to view inside the body. More specifically, an MRA helps your doctor review the condition of your blood vessels.
The test reveals details that will help your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis of your condition and to determine a customized treatment plan.
The difference between an MRI and an MRA is that an MRA is used specifically to examine blood vessels.The "A" in MRA stands for "angiography." This term describes any medical test that looks at the inside of blood vessels, including veins and arteries. When blood vessels become blocked, narrowed, or otherwise damaged, they can lead to problems like chest pain, a heart attack, or a stroke. An MRA allows your doctor to find exactly which blood vessels are injured and to view the extent of the damage.
Your doctor may schedule an MRA if you have had any of the following:

  • a stroke
  • heart disease, including congenital heart disease
  • vasculitis, which is an inflammation of blood vessels
  • an aortic aneurysm, which is a swelling of the main artery of the body called the aorta
  • a narrowing of the aorta
  • atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing of arteries in the arms or legs
  • renal artery stenosis, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels in the kidneys
  • carotid artery disease, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain
  • mesenteric artery ischemia, which is a narrowing of one of the three arteries that supply blood to the small and large intestines

Procedure for MR Angiography

Before the test, your doctor will likely instruct you not to eat or drink anything for four to six hours. If you’re pregnant, have a pacemaker or other metallic device in your body like an artificial heart valve, or weigh more than 300 pounds, you may not be eligible for the MRA.
Once you’re ready for the exam, you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any metal objects or jewelry that may interfere with the magnetic field. If you’re nervous or claustrophobic, you may be given a sedative to help you relax. You’ll want to lie as still as you can during the test to create the best quality images.
Next, the technician may inject a contrast dye into your hand or forearm to help improve the quality of the images. Be sure to inform your doctor if you have any concerns about allergic reactions to the dye, if you have kidney disease, or if you’ve had prior kidney failure. Poor kidney function can affect your ability to flush the dye from your system.
Finally, you’ll lay flat on the table, which will slide through a doughnut-shaped chamber. Inside the chamber, the magnetic fields and radio waves surround your body and create the images. The procedure is painless. It may last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. You’ll be able to talk to the technician through a speaker, and you’ll also likely be provided with earplugs or earphones to help you relax.