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    What is the difference between an MRI and an MRA?

    Posted by John Holden on Tue, Feb 17, 2009

    MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRIs are very good at analyzing the anatomy of your internal organs. You can read more about MRI here.

    MRA stands for Magnetic Resonance Angiography. This type of MRI test highlights and evaluates the arteries in your body. It can examine arteries in your brain (aka the "circle of willis" or "COW"), your neck ("carotids"), your chest and abdomen ("aorta") among others. MRA is typically used to detect:

    • Aneurysms -- these are "outpouchings" of vessels that can rupture.
    • Atherosclerosis -- plaque formation and narrowing of arteries.
    • Dissection -- internal "tear" of a major artery.
    • Vasculitis -- inflammation of the arteries.
    • Congential malformations -- examples include AVM, hemangioma and duplicated vessels.
    • Pre operative planning -- for placement of stents or treating anueyrsms and AVMs.

    In some cases your doctor will order both an MRI and MRA. For example, Neurologists who are treating patients with migraines may order these together to evaluate the brain and the vessels of the brain to look for tumors, vasculitis and aneurysms.

    MRA is done very much like MRI. You're placed on the MRI table. The technologist places a receiving coil around the body part in which the vessels are located. The table is advanced into the MRI machine and the exam is done. MRA tests take less time than MRIs, though can vary depending on the vessel(s) being evaluated.

    If you're looking for an MRA test you can use our site here to look up local facilities and MRA scan costs.

    Do you have any tips for people who are going to have an MRA? Leave your comments below.

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    I have MRA's and MRI's and angiograms on a regular basis, after having an eneurysm burst in my brain in 2005. There is constant disagreement between the neurosurgeons who order the MRA's (& expect them to be done with contrast) and the radiologists/radiographers who say it isn't necessary. My 1st aneurysm was coiled (twice). I have 2 more small ones being monitored. I get really stressed when they can't even seem to agree on what scans etc to do.I end up being "upgraded" back to angiograms after the MRA;s are done without contrast- & apparently therefore don't show enough info. I have questioned this MANY times- with no satisfactory response. 
    Any commnets/info gratefully received

    posted @ Thursday, May 14, 2009 5:19 AM by Sue

    I had a MRA & MRI done a week ago. since then i have bllod vessels in my forhead that can be seen as well as on the side of my head. should I be worried?

    posted @ Tuesday, June 30, 2009 5:21 PM by Stephanie Van Horn

    a doctor sent me for a mra; now he wants a mri. I don't understand if thy are symmetrical in design and purpose, why the images aren't used purposely.

    posted @ Thursday, November 26, 2009 8:35 AM by francie W

    My daughter had2 ultrasounds, an MRI and a MRA. All 4 had different results. There were atleast 3 different Radiologists, poss 4 reading them. Who's right?? Ultrasound 1 showed Poss Neoplastic Process, MRI 1 showed Poss Sarcoma, Ultrasound 3 showed Hemangioma, MRA showed AV Malformation???

    posted @ Sunday, January 30, 2011 2:45 PM by Jen

    I am scheduled for an Mri and and MRA, any suggestions as to how to keep from getting to nervous.

    posted @ Friday, February 11, 2011 8:33 AM by

    My wife had an aneurysm and then neurosurgeon suggested having my son tested who is 6. The pediatrician on the order to the testing center stated "MRI with contrast". What the pediatrician wanted done was an MRA. Even though he did not state this on the order, the technician only performed an MRI. I believe stating "MRI with contrast" implicates at least an MRA done possibly without contrast. Needless to say we had to go back again for the MRA, which there was confusion as stated above as to the fact that an MRA could be performed without contrast. Seems like these guys definetly need to get on the same page. BE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED DONE AND HAVE EVERYONE AGREE BEFORE GOING!!!!

    posted @ Wednesday, May 25, 2011 12:47 PM by Mark

    I have Cerebrovasc Disease. I want to know exactly what this disease is. I also have an aneurysm,AVM and Chiaro Malformation (if i have that spelled right.)What should be done if these the Chiaro malformations start getting larger? Doctors keep saying that they are growing but i was wondering how large would go before tending to them. I have alot of issues with my head and neck. These symtoms seem to be getting worse. What should i be concered about with all my symtoms? Hope someone could give me some opinions.

    posted @ Thursday, October 20, 2011 1:15 PM by Darla Moore

    I'm going to have an MRI/MRA tomorrow because of my vertigo bouts and my constant tinnitus.He want's to troubleshoot for something abnormal in my vessels and brain tissues. I hope he finds nothing, but then again, there is no resolution to cause, is there? I'm nervous about being so confined and wondering if my entire body will have to be in the tube?

    posted @ Sunday, January 22, 2012 12:09 PM by Kathryn

    My neurologist also ordered a MRA b/c I have vascular problems which give me problems with hypotension (86/51). When I go down to radiology the tech tells me that NO contrast is needed and that "the doctors sometimes get confused"!!!! How dare a tech go against a doctor and not do what the doctor ordered!! This is why people have to fight with insurance to have another test performed and utimately why people DIE!!! I'm sick of stupidity!!!

    posted @ Thursday, May 31, 2012 10:24 AM by Sara

    MRA is for blood vessels. MRI would be for soft tissue such as rotator cuff tear.

    posted @ Wednesday, June 27, 2012 10:50 AM by Christy Marier

    I had coiling of two aneurysms in 2002 at the age of 21. They did a check up angiogram every two years then increased it to three years and then found one coil had compacted and was growing again. I have had several check up since (waiting for latest results now) but they have been telling me the risk of surgery is greater at this stage than the aneurysm itself. They also tell me that having high blood pressure is very dangerous with this 'disease'.... I am now about to go on blood pressure tablets at 31. I just want to stop stressing about my head exploding like my fathers did. I wish neurosurgeons understood the constant stress and would stop wasting money on tests and their time and just fix it. I know the risks and I'm prepared to have the operation. The last angiogram I felt the whole thing, it was a horrible experience and I want this over. Ten years of dealing with this has almost broken me. Why can't I choose to have this done? It's my head and long term it's doing more damage!

    posted @ Saturday, July 07, 2012 10:19 AM by Jane Williams

    I am not a doctor but I'm facing an MRA so came here to read up on it. Last year a friend had an aneurysm repaired. The first neurologist she visited wanted to do 'coiling". She opted to go to the Hopkins Aneurysm Center in Baltimore, even though she had to wait 6 weeks. Hopkins didn't think coiling was appropriate for my friend and did a different procedure - friend is well..doing fine now after Hopkins surgery. I asked my daughter, who is an internist, why the first doc/hospital recommended coiling and she said, "Because that's all they knew how to do" The point: it's your life, get the BEST care you can, even if you have to travel and wait for it. Get as many opinions as you need to make a good decision.

    posted @ Wednesday, December 05, 2012 12:16 PM by Mari

    I have a great deal of faith in both my Neurosurgeon/Interventionalist and staff as well as the Neurologists - 
    but the stress of wondering if the "small one we're gonna keep an eye on" is going to rupture can be overwhelming. I am having a very hard time accepting that I have titanium coils in my brain - every slight headache has me on edge.

    posted @ Thursday, July 18, 2013 2:15 PM by Stan Shemanski

    My mother and my sister had aneurysms. Both had surgery and survived. Since this is obviously hereditary, I go every three years for an MRA. I go tomorrow. Each time it's negative I think I dodged a bullet. My sister still has a small one in her head but it doesn't seem to grow. Thank God. I sympathize with everyone dealing with this but aT least I have seen two ppl survive which gives me comfort.

    posted @ Sunday, September 15, 2013 11:06 AM by Marie

    Hey...I have gone through MRI+MRA test today. It was all new to hear different kind of hammering sounds, whistling, and horns for close to 30 minutes. The bed & tunnel was Air Conditions so I didn't feel any difficulty. So, this is all not much different, only need patience to control nervousness.

    posted @ Monday, September 23, 2013 9:41 AM by Shaukat Ali Gill

    To those of you with aneurysm or vascular issues, have any of you had genetic testing done?

    posted @ Wednesday, October 09, 2013 5:19 PM by Jeanne

    I have MS..coronary artery disease with one stent. Also a descending thoracic aortic aneurysm. Recently I've had protruding blood vessels across my chest...down my left arm and into both hands. Dr. Has scheduled me for MRI/MRA and I wonder why both? 3 years ago the aneurysm was a 3. We lost our insurance when husband lost his job due to downsizing. So I have been off most medications; couldn't see my neurologists or have any tests for three years. The MS has gotten worse and they are assuming the anuerysm has increased in size. I'm on bed rest until tests are completed. Kinds down in the dumps and wanted to tell you all that my thoughts and prayers are with you all. Good luck. 

    posted @ Tuesday, June 03, 2014 11:01 AM by Jean

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