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Cardiac MRI

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is increasingly being used as a diagnostic tool to obtain highly detailed information about your child's heart. The pediatric cardiology team performs approximately 250 studies a year. The MRI lab at the Heart Center is approved by the American College of Radiology and is one of the leaders in the country in developing and performing cardiac MRI procedures. Children's MRI team is led by cardiologists Shelby Kutty, MD, and Scott Fletcher, MD. Dr. Fletcher is a member of the Society of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging and serves on the advisory board for Congenital Cardiac MRI, which sets the standards for cardiac MRI imaging.

Cardiac MRI is a noninvasive test that uses radio waves and magnets to produce detailed three-dimensional pictures of your child's major blood vessels and heart as it is beating. Cardiac MRI is superior to X-rays and other imaging modalities because it can create still and moving pictures and because of the high quality of the images. In addition, the test does not use radiation and therefore, does not carry the long-term risk of causing cancer.

Our cardiologists use cardiac MRI to produce images of the beating heart and to evaluate the structure and function of the heart. These images can help them decide how to best treat your child's heart problem.

Who is a candidate?

At Children's, cardiac MRIs are most frequently performed on children with congenital heart disease and teenagers and young adults with previously operated congenital heart disease. Cardiac MRI images can help explain results from other tests, such as X-ray and CT scans. It is sometimes used to avoid performing more invasive tests.

Cardiac MRI is used to diagnose and evaluate a variety of congenital and acquired heart conditions including:

  • Congenital coronary artery anomalies
  • Damage to the heart muscle
  • Abnormalities of the arteries or veins of the heart
  • Heart valve problems
  • Congenital heart defects after previous heart surgery
  • Pericardial disease (a disease that affects the tissues around the heart)
  • Cardiac tumors

How is the test performed?

The MRI machine is a large magnetic tunnel.  On the day of the test, your child should not wear any clothing items with metal buttons, snaps or zippers. All jewelry and hair accessories should also be removed. To perform an MRI study, your child will lie in the tunnel anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to take all of the pictures needed. While the pictures are being taken, your child will need to lie perfectly still. The technologist will be able to talk to your child between MRI pictures and reassure him or her.

Some children may require anesthesia or conscious sedation before the test if they suffer claustrophobia or are unable to lie still.

Depending on the reason for the test, your child may also require an IV for the MRI. This is used to give a small amount of contrast material during the test to help highlight the heart or blood vessels on the images. The IV will remain in place until the scan is completed.

Parents are welcome to accompany their child into the scan room.

The cardiac MRI test is performed by specially trained MRI technologists and is interpreted by a pediatric cardiologist and pediatric radiologist.

© Children's Hospital & Medical Center | In Affiliation with University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine