Pediatric Cardiac MRI
Pediatric cardiac MRI takes pictures of your child’s heart and blood vessels. Our pediatric cardiologists use cardiac MRI to diagnose heart conditions in babies, children and teens. Children's Health℠ is the only center in Dallas with a dedicated, full-time pediatric cardiac MRI team and scanner. We use the most up-to-date-technology to ensure that we get the best information for your child’s care.
To help keep your child comfortable and relaxed during an MRI, our Child Life Services team provides support. We work closely with children before, during and after the test, using emotional support animals, music, movies and other tools.
What is Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the inside of the body. Our team performs cardiac MRI scans on machines with heart-specific equipment and software.
Doctors and technologists who specialize in cardiac MRI use it to diagnose all types of complex heart diseases in children. These conditions include:
- Congenital heart disease (heart problems present at birth)
- Coronary artery disease
- Pericardial diseases (diseases affecting the outside lining of the heart)
- Heart tumors
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart)
- Heart valve disease
Cardiac MRI uses no radiation and provides the most detailed understanding of your child’s heart. The scans help your child’s cardiologist decide on the best course of treatment for your child.
In some cases, we use cardiac MRI to avoid the need for heart surgery. Our expert team specializes in performing cardiac catheterization, a minimally invasive procedure, in the MRI. In the procedure, doctors use catheters (thin tubes) to access the heart through blood vessels, rather than open surgery. Children’s Health is one of only a few centers in the world doing MRI catheterizations.
What are the benefits of Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
The benefits of a pediatric cardiac MRI include:
- Detailed pictures of the heart. Cardiac MRI scans provide pediatric cardiologists with some of the best images available for certain heart conditions. They can show doctors a clear difference between diseased and normal heart tissue better than X-ray, CT and ultrasound.
- No radiation. Unlike X-ray or CT technology, MRI does not use any radiation to produce images.
- Equipment and technology that works for all ages. Cardiac MRI can be successfully performed in children of any age, from newborns to young adults.
What are the side effects of Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
Cardiac MRI has no side effects. However, you should always tell MRI technologists whether your child has medical devices or metal in their body.
What are the risks of Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
Cardiac MRI is a low-risk imaging technology, and it’s important to understand that:
- MRI machines cannot be used on children with medical devices such as certain pacemakers, cochlear implants or implanted drug pumps. You should let your child’s doctor or the MRI technologist know if your child has one of these, and they can advise you appropriately.
- Infants and young children often need a sedative or anesthesia to help them hold still during an MRI exam. Our pediatric anesthesia team will help prepare your child for the test in the safest possible way.
- Metal and electronic items can be unsafe to have around the MRI’s magnetic field. If your child wears medical jewelry, has piercings or has a medical implant, talk to the MRI technician before the test.
What to expect with Pediatric Cardiac MRI
What to expect before Pediatric Cardiac MRI
Your child’s cardiac MRI will be performed and interpreted by one of our specialty-trained pediatric MRI technologists and Children’s Health specialty-trained pediatric MRI cardiologists and radiologists. These experts will help you prepare your child for the test in an exam before the test. They will help explain the scan it to your child and answer any questions your family may have. Your child’s care team will also provide specific instructions about what your child should eat, drink and do leading up to the test.
If your child needs anesthesia or sedation for the procedure, a Children’s Health pediatric anesthesiologist will also help prepare your child for the test. The preparation before the cardiac MRI test usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour.
Your child’s care team may want to use a contrast dye to highlight their heart and blood vessels. This dye is harmless, but it may be injected into a vein in your child’s arm through an IV. If contrast is necessary, your child will need an IV. You should prepare your child for this experience ahead of time if it is required for their procedure.
Children’s Health nurses and Child Life specialists will help your child understand the test and IV placement to help relieve any anxiety. Your child may feel discomfort from the IV needle or a cool sensation as the contrast dye goes in. Make sure to let the care team know if your child has asthma or allergies to contrast material.
What to expect during Pediatric Cardiac MRI
Make sure to take any metal items, such as jewelry or hair clips, off of your child before the procedure. You will also want to ensure that any stuffed animals or toys they take with them do not have any metal parts. You may go into the MRI room with your child to help comfort them, but you will also need to be screened for metal objects and implanted devices.
Cardiac MRI tests usually take about an hour, but the time frame may vary based on what the images show. The MRI machine looks like a large tunnel or donut. Your child must lie still on a table that will move into the machine.
If your child is awake during the test, they may hear loud sounds from inside the machine as the MRI team takes pictures of their heart and chest. Your child will wear ear protectors and listen to music or watch a movie to distract them from these sounds. They will also be able to hear and talk to the technician doing the test while they are inside the machine. The technician may ask your child to hold their breath for a few seconds during the MRI.
What to expect after Pediatric Cardiac MRI
After the test, the MRI team may ask you and your child to wait while they confirm that the images they got are useful. Then the MRI technologist will remove your child’s IV and bandage their arm. If your child has received anesthesia, their recovery could take between 30 minutes and two hours.
Your child’s cardiologist and MRI team will help explain the images and next steps.
What questions should I ask my provider about Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
- How many Pediatric Cardiac MRI tests have you performed?
- Will my child need to spend the night at the hospital after a Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
- Are there other testing or treatment options?
- What medications should my child stop taking before a Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
- Will my child go home with any special equipment after a Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
- May I be in the room with my child during the MRI?
- How soon will I be able to see my child after a Pediatric Cardiac MRI?
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a cardiac MRI take?
The scan usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour, but it could be longer or shorter depending on the complexity of the study.
What’s the difference between a cardiac MRI vs. an echocardiogram?
Echocardiograms capture a heart’s movement and help cardiologists understand how well a heart is pumping. However, echocardiograms do not reveal as much detail about your child’s heart structure, muscle and detailed blood flow through various blood vessels.
What is the difference between a cardiac MRI with contrast vs. without contrast?
Contrast dye helps highlight certain details about your child’s blood vessels and the heart muscle. The dye helps us better diagnose certain conditions, such as inflammation of the heart, aneurysms or dilated blood vessels. It can also show areas of the heart that may be damaged or areas of blood vessels that may be narrowed.