What Is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Heart?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart, or a cardiac MRI, is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of a large magnet, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of heart structures.

A magnetic field is created around the patient and pulses of radio waves are sent from a scanner. The radio waves knock the nuclei of the atoms in the body out of their normal position; as the nuclei realign back into proper position, they send out radio signals.

Computers are then used to form two-dimensional (2D) images of the heart's structure based on the activity of the hydrogen atoms. Cross-sectional views can be obtained to reveal further details. MRI does not use radiation, as do X-rays or computed tomography (CT scans)

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