Cardiovascular Medicine

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Patient Information for Stress MRI

A Cardiac Stress MRI is a special type of a Cardiac MRI (CMR) that can detect blockage of the heart arteries.  It adds approximately fifteen extra minutes to a standard CMR (60 minutes total). 

We ask that patients do not have any type of caffeine for 24 hours prior to their test (caffeine may effect the results), and not to eat for 4 hours prior.  On the day of the exam, patients arrive one hour prior to the scan.  They will meet with a radiology registered nurse who will start two small IV’s, document current medications, and discuss other necessary paperwork.  An EKG will be performed to evaluate the patient’s current cardiac rhythm, and it will be reviewed by a specially trained cardiologist or radiologist.    

The patient’s MRI will occur in Froedtert Hospital’s spacious, most open MRI scanner.  Cardiac trained MRI technologists will work alongside cardiologists or radiologists to ensure the highest quality imaging. 

The “stress” portion of the exam involves the injection of a drug called adenosine through one of the IVs.  Adenosine is a naturally-occurring substance in our bodies, but is given in higher than natural doses for the test.   This medication may cause some short-lasting symptoms (for example: tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, or a feeling of a ‘racing’ heart) while it is being injected.  The effects wear off in under 1 minute.  All trained personnel will be monitoring the patient’s vital signs during and after the injection of adenosine.   Adenosine should be avoided in people with a severe asthma, so please let the staff know if you are currently experiencing significant asthma symptoms.  The remainder of the exam is performed without using this medication. 

The second IV that was placed is used to inject a contrast agent called gadolinium.  Gadolinium is an agent that allows the cardiologist and radiologist to better view the heart muscle.  This contrast agent does not cause the short-lasting symptoms that the adenosine may cause, and does not have the potential to cause kidney problems like CT contrast can.  It should be avoided in patients with severe kidney problems, so please let the staff know if you have this history.

A patient can expect to spend about one-hour total in the MRI suite.  They will be positioned laying on their back and will need to be able to hold their breath for many, relatively short pictures.  The scanner is very noisy and earplugs or headphones will be provided.  When the imaging is completed, the patient will have one final EKG performed prior to discharge.  

Any patient-related questions? Please call 414-805-3700
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 09/08/2014