What are MRA scans?

An MRA, or magnetic resonance angiography, is basically a type of magnetic resonance image (MRI) scan. Both tests use a strong magnetic pull and pulses of radio waves to show us images of blood vessels inside the body. However, a MRA is particularly good for finding problems with blood vessels that may be causing a restricted or reduced blood flow in a person’s body.

MRA scan

With an MRA, both the blood flow and the condition of the blood vessel walls can be seen. The test is often used to check the blood vessels leading to the brain, kidneys, and/or the legs.  An MRA scan can find problems with a person’s arteries and veins, such as an aneurysm, a blocked blood vessel, or the torn lining of a blood vessel (dissection).

During MRA, the area of the body being studied is put inside an MRI machine. A dye (contrast material) is often used during MRA to make blood vessels show up more clearly. Much like an MRI, information from an MRA scan can be saved and stored on a computer for more study. Photographs of selected MRA views can also be made.

In many cases MRA can give information that cannot be see from an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan.

MRA scans are painless procedures that do not use any radiation. Most patients who get an MRA are able to leave immediately after the test is performed.  Click here to read about what a person would experience during a MRI scan – a procedure very similar, if not identical, to MRA scanning.

GOOD SOURCES FOR FURTHER READING: Dictionary of Medical Terms, 4th Edition, from A&C Black Publishers Ltd., Grey's Anatomy, The Classic Collector's Edition, by Henry Gray, Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, Second Edition by Mayo Clinic, Howard Gallager, Mayo Foundation, Women's Health, Men's Health and Health for Seniors all by Professor Peter Abrahams, the National Cancer Institute, the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Radiology.