What is the Difference Between MRI and MRA?


Did you know that if you took the blood vessels of an average adult and spread them out, they would be over 100,000 miles long? That is a lot of arteries, vessels, veins, and capillaries to look through when a patient comes to us needing vascular imaging. That is why both the patient and the doctor appreciate the benefits that MRA technology allow.

Because they are so closely related, trying to understand the difference between MRI and MRA procedures can be difficult for the average patient. But when we look closer, there are actually a lot of differences but a lot of similarities as well.

What is an MRA?

An MRA or magnetic resonance angiogram is when MRI technology is used to image the blood vessels of the body. Without making a single incision, physicians can see the many minuscule and convoluted pathways of blood through the body clearly. Why is this important? The way blood moves through the body is telling of the body’s current state. Is blood moving too quickly? The patient could have high blood pressure that could lead to a cardiovascular episode. Is the blood moving too slowly? There could be a blockage in the body that if left untreated, could become a coronary thrombosis, or in layman’s terms, a heart attack.

In many cases, other methods of imaging like CT scans and ultrasounds cannot obtain the same kind of information that an MRA can. An MRA is a form of MRI testing, meaning it uses radio waves along with a rotating magnetic field in order to image the blood vessels of the body. So in many ways, MRI and MRA are similar but MRA is used primarily for the imaging the vascular system. MRIs are used for multiple reasons like imaging the musculoskeletal system and soft tissue examination.

The difference between an MRA and MRI become more clear when we understand what an MRA can see and how it is administered. MRAs examine the blood pathways between the brain, kidneys, and legs and often use contrast material to help vessels and potential blockages to be highlighted. Contrast material is not used in every MRI that is performed and MRIs usually have a larger area to examine rather than a single vein or vessel. Contrast material is useful to help highlight problem areas and to help physicians perform other procedures with a clear image of the area. Contrast material assists physicians and technicians when they are searching for the following:

  • Clots, bulges or aneurysms or fatty buildups in the blood vessels leading the brain.
  • Tears or aneurysms in the aorta leading away from the body
  • Stenosis or narrowing of the blood vessels in the body
  • Other anomalies and abnormalities in the blood vessels

MRAs and MRIs do not use radiation in order to make images and they take about the same amount of time, about 30 minutes, depending on the patient’s movements and what is being examined. Be sure to take out all metallic objects in the body and tell your doctor if you think you may be pregnant.

So you can see there are a few differences between an MRI and MRA but they both help patients live healthier lives and help doctors provide high-quality treatment.

Ready to make your appointment, you can request an appointment online or call our office at 504-833-8111 Monday through Friday 8 AM to 6 PM to speak with a representative.

Using Medical Imaging to Diagnose Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the protective layers surrounding the nerve tracts in the brain and can cause difficulty walking as well as pain performing everyday movements. Every case of MS and MS symptoms are different. Some people have symptoms that resolve in a few weeks or months. But for others, the condition has a much more permanent presence in their life.

Multiple Sclerosis is a common disease, yet difficult to track. Because global health institutions do not mandate that doctors report new cases and because symptoms can be invisible for many years, there is no definitive number of those diagnosed with MS every year. Some experts estimate that there are about 2.3 million people with MS around the world with 200 new cases diagnosed every week. That is almost as many people as the entire city of Houston.

With such high numbers of people diagnosed, what causes multiple sclerosis? No one is sure, but most point to a genetic factor or some type of environmental contributor — the cause of MS is still debated. MS symptoms include sensational disruptions, problems controlling movement, lethargy and visual complications. As stated previously though, these symptoms can be minimal and inconsistent, making it harder for patients to recognize their symptoms and for doctors to diagnose.

One of the best exams for doctors needing to diagnose MS is using MRI. MRIs use a combination of magnetic fields and radio waves in order to create images of the internal organs. MRIs are particularly adept at imaging the tissues and nervous structures of the body as well as identifying musculoskeletal disorders. MRIs can detect the subtle changes in the brain and spinal cord that are indicative of MS. MRIs are extremely safe, noninvasive and require no radiation, making them the preferred method for MS diagnosis.

At Doctors Imaging, we also use
NeuroQuant to better examine patients suspected of having memory loss, Multiple Sclerosis, brain trauma other neurologic conditions. NeuroQuant is FDA-cleared software that is a part of the routine MRI protocol that is available upon request from referring physicians that need volumetric analysis when making clinical assessments for any disease that may cause alterations in brain anatomy.

If you have other questions about MRIs, NeuroQuant, or other services at Doctors Imaging, feel free to contact our offices at 504-883-8111 or Request an Appointment.