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The difference between an MRI and MRA scan.

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In words:

How are MRI and MRA scans different?

An MRI and an MRA scan are very similar, but besides the single letter at the end, they differ in what they are often used for.

A 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.

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.

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