MRA stands for Magnetic Resonance Angiography.
It is an MRI technique that specifically evaluates vessels such as arteries. Renal artery MRAs evaluate the vessels that supply blood to the kidneys to look for narrowing and blockage of the vessels, evaluate a suspected aneurysm, or look at the the blood supply of a kidney tumor.
(FYI: "renal" is another word for kidney).
Renal MRAs are typically ordered for the evaluation of hypertension and kidney failure that can be caused by blockages and narrowing of the arteries. If a kidney receives less blood flow it may "act" as if there is not enough blood in the body and release hormones that try to raise the blood pressure. If one or both kidneys has low flow, over time the kidney tissue becomes damaged and is unable to function leading to renal failure.
Renal MRAs can diagnose:
Plaque - Renal MRAs can detect plaque deposits that overtime can narrow the vessel leading to reduced blood flow to the kidneys. Some plaque can abruptly "tear" off sending bits of plaque into the kidneys, blocking vessels and causing a "stroke" of the kidneys. This can lead to kidney scarring.
Dissection - This refers to a tear in the wall of the vessel. Think of it as a tear of the inner lining of the sleeve of a jacket. If you filled the inner lining of your jacket with down it would block the real opening for your arm. In the artery the blood goes into the opening of the tear of the dissection, expands the false channel, potentially blocking the flow of blood to the kidney and resulting in low flow to the kidney and damage to the tissue.
Aneurysms and Vascular Tumors - Aneurysms are ballooning of the vessels that can either disturb normal blood flow, press on nearby tissue or rupture. Renal vascular tumors may be picked as the vessels that feed them are large enough to be seen on the MRA.
An MRA of the renal arteries will evaluate:
Each kidney has between 1 to 2 arteries that come off the sides of the abdominal aorta (see the picture to the right). These short and relatively small vessels can be narrowed by plaque, become inflamed or be affected by dissections and aneurysms.
The abdominal aorta is the main feeding artery for your body below your diaphragm. A renal MRA will include this vessel and can detect major abnormalities like aneurysms, dissection, plaque and blockages.
Abdominal Aorta branch arteries
In addition to seeing the renal arteries, the MRA will also see the other branch vessels which include the celiac artery, superior mesenteric artery and inferior mesenteric artery among others. These vessels supply other organs including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, adrenals, stomach, etc.
Your Renal artery MRA Scan
A Renal artery MRA generally takes about 15-30 minutes or so to complete. If you are going for one, wear loose comfortable clothing and remember to remove all metal (jewelry, phones, rings, etc) before going into the MRI scan room. This test is occasionally done with IV MRI contrast.
If you're insured, you may need to have your test authorized (approved) by your insurance company first. If you're uninsured and need to look up prices and buy an MRA scan of the renal arteries, you can use our website to look up MRA scan costs and then purchase with your credit card.
Have you had a Renal MRA scan? What was it like? Please leave your comments below.