MRI stress exam is a non-invasive, non-irradiating, painless diagnostic method of ischemic heart disease.

When it is recommended a MRI stress exam?

Narrowing of the coronary arteries can occur with chest pain (angina pectoris). However, not all chest pain is due to coronary heart disease. In order to diagnose coronary heart disease, your doctor may choose to perform invasive angiography or one of non-invasive investigations.

Such a non-invasive investigation is for example the ECG effort test, which is very commonly indicated, but which has a relatively low accuracy for the diagnosis of ischemic coronary artery disease. Therefore, a number of imaging methods are now being used to diagnose ischemic coronary artery disease more efficiently.

These methods are: stress echocardiography, stress myocardial scintigraphy, coronary artery tomography, or cardiovascular magnetic resonance. Each of these tests has its pros and cons, and your doctor will indicate one of these methods depending on your particular situation.

MRI stress exam is a modern method of diagnosis for myocardial ischaemia, used very commonly in developed countries. This method does not irradiate and offer quality images to all patients, irrespective of the chest wall conformation. Studies have shown that MRI’s diagnostic accuracy of stress is greater than stress myocardial scintigraphy and of course much better than the ECG effort test.

How is MRI stress exam related?

MRI scanning will take about 60 minutes. During this time you will sit comfortably in your device, in a not too long “tunnel”, open at both ends. You will hear periodic noises as we purchase heart images, so we will protect your hearing by earphones by listening to your radio or one of your favorite CDs. We will remain in touch with you throughout the scan.

We will insert two small plastic tubes into the veins of the arms. During scanning, we will inject a contrast agent. Patients usually do not notice the injection of the contrast agent. At one point, we’ll let you know we’re starting to inject Adenosine, a medicine that increases blood flow and dilates coronary arteries. This can cause a short feeling of heat, difficulty breathing or chest discomfort. All of these symptoms, if they occur, will usually disappear within a minute or two. A doctor will permanently monitor your heart’s activity and will always communicate with you during the infusion of Adenosine.

Risks and discomforts

MRI is safe and does not use X-rays or radiation. There are known no risks of this technique. Some people may suffer from claustrophobia (the difficulty of finding themselves in narrow spaces). Our staff will do their best to make you feel comfortable during scanning and will monitor you through a video camera and an audio link. If we can’t make you feel comfortable into the device, we will not continue the scanning and we will stop the exam.

The contrast agent that we use is very safe, but as with any injection, reactions may occur. These include a feeling of heat at the injection site, nausea or vomiting, and rash. These effects usually take only a few minutes. People with a history of allergy are more likely to suffer a more severe reaction, but this is rare (less than 1 in 3000 cases). The department is equipped to deal with allergic reactions if it happens.

Adenosine, the medicine that we use to increase blood flow to the heart, can cause rash, difficulty in breathing and chest discomfort. However, all these symptoms usually decrease within one to two minutes or even faster if the medicine is stopped.


MRI stress exam is an advanced imaging technique that requires a lot of experience from the doctors performing it. In our department, MRI stress exams are conducted by a team of a radiologist and a cardiologist, trained in the UK. The result of the investigation will be prepared by both doctors and you will be able to pick it up from reception or receive it at your e-mail address.


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