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MRI and MRA Imaging

You can trust that you’re in good hands for all imaging procedures at Banner Health, including MRA and MRI medical imaging. These tests are part of our comprehensive care and help our staff get a better understanding of your condition to provide the best treatment options for you.

What Is an MRI?

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of organs and tissues in your body. An MRI machine uses magnetic fields to temporarily realign the water molecules in your body. The radio waves then cause the atoms to produce faint signals. These signals are then used to create either cross-sectional or 3D images of your body.

Types of MRI Machines

In addition to traditional MRI machines, Banner also uses open MRI and wide bore MRI machines:

Open MRI

An open bore MRI machine can be open on three or all sides of the machine. This type of MRI allows for patients who are claustrophobic or do not fit into a closed bore MRI. Open bore MRIs are best for extremities over the torso, organs or skull. An open bore MRI, however, takes longer and cannot reach the same image quality as a closed bore MRI as the magnetic field strength maxes out at 1.2 T.

Wide Bore MRI

A wide bore MRI combines the benefits of a closed bore MRI with more space inside the tunnel. This type of MRI delivers quality images while allowing more comfort for patients.

When Is an MRI Used?

An MRI is used to examine organs, tissues and the skeletal system in order to diagnose a variety of problems. Typically, MRIs are used as imaging tests for the brain and spinal cord, but also diagnose issues of other internal organs, like the heart, blood vessels, bones and joints or breasts. 

MRIs can help diagnose abnormalities, including: 

  • Tumors
  • Strokes
  • Aneurysms
  • Brain injuries
  • Eye and inner ear disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Aneurysms
  • Abnormalities of the internal organs, like the liver and bile ducts
  • Joint abnormalities
  • Tumors of the bones and soft tissues
  • Bone infections
  • Problems in the heart, like damages caused by heart attacks and heart disease

What Is an MRA?

An MRA is a type of MRI that looks specifically at blood vessels. During the test, you will still be asked to lie in a large tube-shaped MRA machine. In some cases, you may need to have a special dye added to your bloodstream to make blood vessels easier to see.

When Is an MRA Used?

Your doctor may require an MRA imaging test if they believe you have blocked or narrowed blood vessels somewhere in your body. MRAs provide a more detailed look into your inner organs using magnetic fields, as opposed to CT scans, which require radiation for the x-rays.

Your doctor may also need an MRA to:

  • Look at any narrowing or bleeding of the aorta or aortic coarctation
  • Find the cause of a stroke
  • Find the cause of a stroke
  • Look for signs of heart disease
  • Find any narrowing or blockage of blood vessels in the arms or legs


Both MRAs and MRIs are medical imaging tests. The difference between tests is simple. MRAs are used to look at blood vessels, while an MRI is used to look at tissue.

How Do I Prepare for an MRA/MRI?

Before your MRA or MRI, you will be able to eat normally and take your usual medication unless otherwise instructed. You will be asked if you have any conditions or issues that could interfere with the MRI machine. These can include:

  • Joint replacements
  • Pacemakers
  • Dentures
  • Medical devices, such as hearing aids
  • Implants
  • Piercings
  • Tattoos
  • Metal of any kind
  • Cosmetics that contain metal particles

Talk to your doctor if you have any of these issues before an MRA or MRI exam.

What Can I Expect from an MRA/MRI?

An MRI is painless, but you will hear loud noises during the procedure. You may be given earplugs or ear protection of some sort. For MRAs, you will likely need a contrast agent, which will be injected into your veins prior to the exam.

During the test, you will lie down on a table that slides into the opening of the MRI tube. You will have a technologist guiding and talking to you throughout the procedure from another room. If you are claustrophobic, you may be given a drug to help ease anxiety.

The machine will produce magnetic waves around you while radio waves are directed at your body. You will be asked to remain still for the duration of your procedure. The combination of these waves will produce images of the body on the technologist’s screen. You may be asked to perform small tasks, like answering simple questions, to locate the portions of the brain that control these functions.

Depending on what is being analyzed, an MRI can last from 15 minutes to an hour. Unless you have been sedated, you can resume normal activities immediately after the scan.

While the MRA and MRI procedures are painless and non-invasive, you may experience some rare risks, including:

  • Skin “burns”
  • Hearing damage
  • Heating of the body
  • Magnetic reactions from objects within the body, like metal joint replacements

Once your radiologist has analyzed and interpreted your images, they will report their findings back to your doctor. Your doctor will report back to you to discuss any important findings and provide next steps.

Where Can I Get an MRA/MRI?

You can get an MRI or MRA scan at a Banner Health hospital, clinic or at many of our convenient Banner Imaging locations. 

Banner’s certified imaging staff is always ready to help. Let us know if you have questions during any stage of your MRI or MRA. 

Find an Imaging Location Near You

Whatever your need, your doctor can refer you to one of our conveniently located free-standing imaging centers or one of our hospitals.