MRI, MRA and MRV of the Head

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and magnetic resonance venography (MRV) are specialized examinations that use a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to create detailed, cross-sectional images of the head. MRA and MRV exams are specifically designed to examine the blood vessels.

Our team of sub-specialized radiologists utilizes these examinations to:

  • Distinguish normal, healthy tissue from diseased tissue.
  • Identify abnormalities, such as aneurysms, in the blood vessels of the head.
  • Detect atherosclerotic (plaque) disease in the carotid artery of the neck, which may limit blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.
  • Identify small aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (abnormal communications between blood vessels) inside the brain or other parts of the body.
  • Examine malformations caused by congenital heart disease in the heart or other blood vessels, and especially in the arteries of children.
  • Evaluate obstructions of blood vessels.

MRA can also be used as a substitute for CT angiography when iodinated contrast material cannon be used.

These exams do not use radiation, but may involve:

  • The injection of a contrast material, which may be used at the radiologist’s discretion to improve image clarity by making the blood vessels more visible


To make registration quicker and easier, we encourage you to take advantage of our online system, where you will complete the MRI Screening Questionnaire and the MRI and Pregnancy form (if applicable).

If you are claustrophobic (fearful of small, enclosed areas) or experience pain when lying on your back for more than 30 minutes, your referring physician may prescribe a relaxant or pain medication to help you through the exam. When scheduling your appointment, please make the IMI Team aware of any concerns or issues you might have, so we can ensure that you have everything you need to comfortably, successfully complete your MRI exam.

While we don’t anticipate a long wait, we do want to make any waiting time as pleasant as possible. Please consider bringing a magazine, book, or music with headphones to help you pass the time.

Unless you are told otherwise, before your exam you may follow your regular daily routine, and eat, drink, and take medications as usual.

Please leave all jewelry and valuables at home.


Please inform the technologist, radiology nurse, and/or radiologist of any allergies you may have, or if you are pregnant or nursing.

If you have not already done so online, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine if an MRI is safe for you. Because an MRI utilizes a strong magnetic field, patients with various implants (usually metallic), body piercings, or other metal in their bodies (including some tattoos) may encounter difficulty with an MRI. It is critical that your imaging physician is made aware of any such potential issues before your examination.

You will be asked questions to verify that the injection of gadolinium, the MRI contrast agent, is safe for you. If you have a history of kidney disease, a blood test may be required to ensure that you can safely be given gadolinium.

You will be asked to wear scrubs during the exam.


An MRI machine consists of a large, cylinder-shaped tube with a moveable scanning table that slides into the center of the machine. For this exam, you will be asked to lie head first on the table with your arms at your sides.

Coils (special devices to improve image quality) may be placed on or around your head.

This exam requires the use of an IV contrast agent, gadolinium, to improve the quality of your images. When the agent is injected into the arm, it may cause a cooling sensation.

The scanning table will slide your entire body into the magnet. During the scan, you will not feel anything but will hear intermittent humming, thumping, clicking, and knocking sounds. Headphones will be provided to help mask the noise and allow you to listen to music. As your images are taken, you must hold very still and at times may be asked to hold your breath.

The technologist will able to see and hear you at all times during the exam.

The MRI exam will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the specifics that your referring physician has ordered.


Once your exam is complete, there will be no restrictions placed upon you. You may eat, drive, and resume your activities as usual. Your images will be examined by a radiologist and their report sent to your healthcare provider within 24-48 hours of your examination. Your healthcare provider will review the results with you.

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