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Cardiac MR Center

About Us

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cardiac MR Center is a joint effort of the Departments of Medicine (Cardiovascular Division) and Radiology. Established in the Spring of 1995, it was one of the very first MR Centers specifically focused on cardiovascular MR. BIDMC's Cardiac MR Center is a world leader in the development and clinical use of cardiac MR for coronary artery imaging, and for assessing cardiomyopathies and viability, pericardial disease and congenital heart disease. The center features a state-of-the-art 1.5T dedicated Philips Cardiac MR system. The Center is also committed to the education and training of interested researchers and clinicians with funding provided by grants from the NIH/NHLBI, American Heart Association, industry, private foundations, and Individual contributions.


For directions by car please visit Patient and Visitor Information. Cardiac MRI is NOT located in Radiology – remember this if you ask BIDMC staff for directions.

  • Go to the East Campus entrance with the large blue sign out front.
  • The best elevator to take to the Cardiac MR Center is the GRYZMISH elevator. This set of elevators is NOT located in the main lobby but is nearby near the Nuclear Medicine Department. You can ask the staff at the information desk in the main lobby to direct you to these elevators.
  • Take the GRYZMISH elevator to the FOURTH floor.
  • Turn left as you exit the elevators and proceed up the hallway. You will see an overhead sign directing you to "Echo Lab/Patient Check-In & Reception". The check-in area is on your right. The receptionist will notify the CMR staff of your arrival.
  • If you get lost, ask for direction to Non-Invasive Cardiac Imaging on the 4th floor or contact us at 617-667-8555.

What is a Cardiac MRI?

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field rather than x-rays to provide remarkably clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. The procedure is valuable in diagnosing a broad range of conditions in all parts of the body, including heart and vascular disease. MRI requires specialized equipment and expertise and allows evaluation of some body structures that may not be as visible with other imaging methods. Because the strong magnetic field used for MRI will pull on any iron-containing object in the body, MRI staff will ask whether you have a heart pacemaker or implanted defibrillator, implanted port (often referred to by brand names such as Port-o-cath, Infusaport or Lifeport), intrauterine device (IUD), or any metal plates, pins, screws or surgical staples in your body. In most cases, surgical staples, plates, pins and screws pose no risk during MRI. Red dyes used in tattoos and permanent eyeliner may contain metallic iron oxide and could heat up during MRI; however, this is rare. You will be asked if you have ever had a bullet or shrapnel in your body, or ever worked with metal. If there is any question of metal fragments, you may be asked to have an x-ray that will detect any metal objects.

Why does my doctor want me to have an MRI?

MRI provides abundant soft tissue contrast and in many cases allows additional and more precise differences to be recognized, than is possible with standard X-ray examinations, computer tomography (CT) or ultrasound. In some instances, a contrast medium is injected into a vein to further improve contrast - and thus allow better differentiation of tissues. The most commonly used MRI contrast agents are a class of chemical compound containing gadolinium as the substance which is decisive for improving contrast. The contrast medium is eliminated via the kidney and is very well tolerated. MRI contrast media can be used safely when allergy or kidney problems have resulted from the use of the X-ray or CT Scan contrast media.

Are there any risks to having an MRI?

MRI poses no known risk to most patients if appropriate safety guidelines are followed. An MRI examination involves the use of a very strong magnet. For a very few patients MRI may be inadvisable, so we require you to complete our safety checklist before beginning your exam. This assures that the study will be safe for you. You should tell us if you have or believe that you might have any of the following:

  • Brain aneurysm clips
  • Cardiac pacemaker
  • Are or may be pregnant
  • Implanted medication pumps
  • Implanted nerve stimulating devices
  • Intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Any other surgically implanted or metallic object in your body

Many implants used today are safe to go into the magnet, but we will determine that for each individual patient. For the safety of staff and patients the MRI environment needs to remain free of metal objects. We will ask that you remove all jewelry (except wedding rings) watches, hair clips and pins, hearing aids, wallets and credit cards. You will have a locker for safe keeping while you are in the scanner.

What if I am claustrophobic?

People who are claustrophobic may find that a mild sedative helps them get through the exam. If you feel you need some sedation for the MRI study then you should contact your physician and he will order it. Typically you should take the sedative one-hour prior to your appointment time. You will also need to arrange for some one to accompany you, and to drive you home after the study. You should not plan to do any work or activity that requires you to be alert for the duration of that day. You will be discharged home with your escort.

Does it hurt to have the MRI?

MR imaging is not painful. However, for some, lying still can be slightly uncomfortable; minimizing movement is necessary to obtain the best possible pictures. As in photography, a shifting subject will result in a picture that is blurry. We will do everything we can to make you comfortable during your exam.

What do I need to do to prepare?

Most MRI exams require no preparation. We will however, ask that you avoid caffeinated beverages for several hours before your exam. You should take any medication you would normally take as directed by your doctor. Please let your technologist know if you have taken medications to relax you. If so, you must have someone with you to drive you home after your MRI.

What will happen when I report for the MRI?

You will check in at the cardiology non-invasive testing waiting area, room ES405. Tell the receptionist you are here for MRI and she will let us know that you are here and we will meet you.

After the technologist discusses the exam with you and answers any questions that you might have, you will be taken to a locker room where you will change into appropriate clothing and be able to secure your belongings in a locker. You will be escorted into the scan room. There, you will be positioned on a special table that will move you into the scanner so that your heart is in the center for the imaging. You will have pillows under your knees and blankets to be warm. Cardiogram leads and a special piece of equipment called a surface coil, which is like a radio antenna, will be placed over your chest. You will get hearing protection (earplugs) and also a headset, which will lessen the volume of the buzzing and chirping sounds and allow you to listen to music as well as communicate with the technologist during the exam. These noises are the sound of the magnet working to generate images.

The technologist will be in a booth outside the room during the exam but at all times, the technologist can both see and hear you. You will be given an emergency call button in the very unlikely case of an emergency. The exam consists a number of different scans that vary in length and the type of sound they make. The technologist will tell you how long each scan will be and will remind you to lie as still as possible. Some MRI exams have a few short scans during which you will be asked to hold your breath. These "breath holds" last from 10 to 20 seconds. Patients should expect to be in the scanner between 40 minutes to 90 minutes. At the end of the exam, the technologist will help you off the table and escort you back to the locker area where you can change back into your clothes. Unless you have taken a sedative before the exam, there will be no restrictions on your activities after you finish the MRI.

Contact Information

Cardiac MR Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus, ES405
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215