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What Is Chest MRI?

Chest MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a safe, noninvasive test. "Noninvasive" means that no surgery is done and no instruments are inserted into your body. This test creates detailed pictures of the structures in your chest, such as your chest wall, heart, and blood vessels.

Chest MRI uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer to create these pictures. The test is used to:

  • Look for tumors in the chest
  • Look at blood vessels, lymph (limf) nodes, and other structures in the chest
  • Help explain the results of other tests, such as a chest x ray or chest computed tomography (to-MOG-rah-fee) scan, also called a chest CT scan.

As part of some chest MRIs, a substance called contrast dye is injected into a vein in your arm. This dye allows the MRI to take more detailed pictures of the structures in your chest.

Chest MRI has few risks. Unlike a CT scan or standard x ray, MRI doesn't use radiation or pose any risk of cancer. Rarely, the contrast dye used for some chest MRIs may cause an allergic reaction or worsen kidney function in people who have kidney disease.

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Last Updated: October 1, 2010