Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging (CMR) has emerged as the "gold standard" to assess heart function. CMR is able to look at the heart from any view without being constrained by the patient's body size and shape. The images are very reproducible, enabling physicians to reliably compared patient's findings over time when repeated studies are performed. Another recent advance is the "viability" or "scar" imaging that allows CMR to precisely detect any heart damage as a result of heart attack. The scan is performed following administration of "Gadolinium", the commonly used, standard contrast agent for MRI that has little, if any in the way of side-effects, and is extremely well-tolerated by patients. The results of viability CMR studies are important in determining whether or not a patient has had a heart attack, and how much heart muscle has been damaged. The results are particularly valuable for Cardiologists when considering performing a coronary artery angioplasty or for Cardiac Surgeons planning coronary artery bypass surgery.

At Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, home of the Texas Heart® Institute, we offer a broad range of diagnostic imaging services using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to evaluate the cardiovascular (CV) system (heart and arteries).

CMR makes use of magnetic waves and protons to create images of the heart and vascular system.  It does not require any radiation exposure.  In certain cases, contrast (gadolinium – chelate) will be given to enhance the image quality of the MRI study.  Gadolinium is not harmful to the kidneys in the recommended dose.

CMR is very reproducible and has good temporal (i.e. “frame rate”) and spatial (i.e. the ability to see small structures) resolution.  It provides complementary information to other non-invasive test (e.g. transthoracic echocardiography).  Furthermore, in many instances, CMR provides information that cannot be evaluated by other modalities, such as the right-side of the heart, the lining of the heart (pericardium), and the detection of prior myocardial infarction (heart attack) by “scar” imaging.

Tests offered at the Diagnostic and Therapeutic Radiology CMR department:

  • Assessment of left and right ventricular function
  • Evaluation of coronary artery disease (including viability / scar imaging, stress perfusion study)
  • Assessment of coronary artery origins
  • Evaluation of ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathy (e.g. amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, constrictive heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, left ventricular non-compaction, iron-overloading disorder)
  • Assessment of heart valvular structures
  • Assessment of congenital heart disease (e.g. transposition of great vessels, Tetralogy of Fallot, ventricular and atrial septal defects, anomalous pulmonary venous return)
  • Complete evaluation of the thoraco-abdominal aorta, peripheral run-off arteries, renal arteries
  • Pre-operative planning for pulmonary vein ablation for atrial fibrillation

Not every clinical condition is appropriate for CMR and there are certain situations when MRI should not be performed. Your physician will give you detailed instruction on how to prepare for your CMR. Please inform your physician of any medications you are currently taking as well as any allergies you may have. Also, inform your physician regarding a recent illness or other medical conditions.

Women should inform their physician if they are pregnant, or if there is any possibility they may be pregnant.