Seeing Inside the Heart with MRI

A cardiac MRI provides still or moving pictures of how the blood is flowing through the heart.

Vivien Williams: One out of four, that's how many people will die of a heart related problem. Doctors at Mayo Clinic are trying to improve those statistics. They're using MRIs to look inside the heart to find disease and tailor treatment to keep people healthier longer.

MRI technician: You can breathe. Breathe normal.

Vivien Williams: Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, allows doctors to look inside the heart as it beats.

Brian Shapiro, M.D., Mayo Clinic cardiologist: You can see here, this is the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber that pushes blood out of the body.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Brian Shapiro uses MRI to look for abnormalities in the heart.

Brian Shapiro, M.D.: What the MRI does is it looks at the tissue characteristics of the heart. So, swelling of the heart is a very common thing in heart attacks, and infections, and things like that.

Vivien Williams: The moving or still images show exactly where damage happens.

Brian Shapiro, M.D.: You would see it as a very bright, bright spot in the heart.

Vivien Williams: In addition to damage from heart attack or infection, MRI can also show Dr. Shapiro how well the heart pumps, where irregular heart beats originate, the location of blood clots, artery blockages, scar tissue, or even tumors. Because MRI allows doctors to see more detail of the heart, they can make more accurate diagnoses, and therefore tailor treatment for patients.

Brian Shapiro, M.D.: As you can actually show where the heart attack is, and the extent of the heart attack.

Vivien Williams: Images that tell Dr. Shapiro if a patient will recover, if there's permanent damage, and what treatments might be best. Information from inside the heart that can help Dr. Shapiro and his colleagues better help their patients. Dr. Shapiro says while MRI can show lots of information about the heart, it does not replace other tests such as stress tests or echo cardiograms. It's another option for looking inside the heart. For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.

Dec. 05, 2020