What is better at Evaluating for Heart Disease and Stroke? MRI or CT?

With the constant advertisements about what is “heart healthy” or “preventative” it can be difficult to decipher what is actually beneficial to your health and what is just clever marketing. Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Everyone knows that a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are some of the best ways to keep your heart well and to offset the chance of developing a stroke, but what else can be done? If you have a history of heart disease or stroke in your family, or if you are high-risk for these conditions, a good way to determine your probability of developing these conditions is for you and your doctor to consider having medical imaging procedures performed regularly. The two most recommended for these conditions would be an MRI or CT scan. Read more to find out which of these procedures or others will provide the most warning if you are at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

MRI

MRIs or magnetic resonance imaging is a medical imaging procedure that uses a combination of magnets, radio waves and computer technology to create highly detailed images of the body’s internal organs. MRIs are particularly beneficial for the detection and diagnosis of cardio-vascular disease because of the ability of the machinery to see the difference between healthy and diseased tissue which can be symptomatic of heart disease or blood clot.

MRIs can be performed on both the brain and the heart. Images will be taken of the aorta, and surrounding blood vessels to determine the functionality and condition of these structures. These procedures are the easiest ways for your doctor to see if there are areas for concern. If there is an alarming image or if your doctor just wants to be thorough, he may recommend you have an echocardiogram or further cardiac testing.

CT Scan

CT scans are another extremely beneficial medical imaging test that doctors use to help determine the probability of heart attack, stroke and other conditions. CTs or computed tomography use computers and x-ray technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body. If you are concerned about the condition of your heart or the possibility of a stroke, having a CT scan performed is recommended because they can image bone, soft tissue and blood vessels all at once in order to determine the functionality of all of these elements together.

CTs can be performed on every part of the body but if the possibility of heart disease or stroke is worrying you, you can ask your doctor to order a screening Calcium Score test and if abnormal to consider a CT angiogram (CTA) or a standard angiogram. During a CTA, contrast material is injected into the body in order to highlight the functionality of the blood vessels and arteries in the chest. If there is a blockage in this area, the contrast will allow doctors to see the exact location so that imaging can be localized to that area. If your doctor is concerned about the possibility of stroke in the brain, they may order a perfusion CT, a new imaging technique that draws maps of the blood flow in the brain, the blood volume and the time blood takes to travel throughout the brain. Using these technologies, doctors are better equipped to find problem areas in the brain and access the risk of stroke.

Which Should I get then?

In conclusion, CT scans are not as proficient at seeing the details of soft tissue as MRIs are but MRIs and CT are some of the best imaging procedures that a patient can have if they are concerned about stroke or heart attack. Speak to your physician or radiologist about having these imaging tests performed to better understand the possible risks and results.

Looking for a CT scan or MRI near New Orleans, Louisiana? At Doctors Imaging, our radiologists are concerned with patient care. You can schedule your imaging exams online, or by calling 504-883-8111.

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