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What is magnetic resonance angiography exactly?

Magnetic resonance angiography or MRA is practically a typeof scan that provides the images of arteries, thus helping the doctors todiagnose a number of medical conditions and to treat them. It is done with thehelp of magnetic field and radio waves, and some cases might require the use ofthe contrast material as well. The images obtained in this way are usually muchmore useful than those that X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound provide, because besidesthe blood vessels, the blood flow can be seen as well. MRA is usually suggestedin cases when the condition of aorta has to be checked, or the condition of theblood vessels that lead to the brain, lungs, legs and kidneys.

How is this procedure performed?

The patients who are about to undergo the MRA should be wellprepared for the procedure and it is important that they know what to expect. Somepeople find MRA scan rather uncomfortable and unpleasant experience and it is particularlydifficult for those who are claustrophobic. For this reason, the patient sometimesneeds to be sedated. It will be necessary that they lie on the special tableand sometimes straps will have to be used to secure the still and correct positionduring the procedure. Small devices will be attached to the area that is to beimaged, and these devices will be responsible for sending and receiving radiowaves. The contrast material will be given intravenously during the procedure ifnecessary, but the IV line will be inserted into a vein before the procedureand the images will be taken both, before and after the contrast material is injected.The radiologist and technologist will not be present in the room during theprocedure, but they will return after it is done. As for the length of theentire examination, it is usually done within 30 or 60 minutes, although the imagingdoes not last more than few minutes. The patient can leave the hospital thesame day, since MRA is done on an outpatient basis.

Are there any risks?

The risks related to this procedure are minimal, and as longas safety guidelines are carefully followed, an average patient is not at risk.Some people might develop allergic reaction to the contrasting material, butthis happens rarely and even if it does happen, the symptoms are mild. Still,people who have some metal medical devices implanted might experience certainproblems because such devices might not function properly due to the presence ofstrong magnetic field.

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