Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an advanced imaging technique that uses radio waves and a magnetic field to display images of the body. It is used frequently in the medical field, especially in patients with HLHS, in addition to the echocardiogram. Echocardiograms can be taken quickly but they are usually limited by the amount of information that can be collected especially when it comes to gathering vital information about the HLHS heart. Importantly, MRI can determine the actual measurement of the heart and its level of function by displaying blood vessels including the lung arteries and the aorta. In HLHS patients, MRI can be very useful in assessing how well the heart pumps and if there are any obstructions to blood flow in the blood vessels of the lungs or the body. Basically, MRI machines take high-quality pictures of the heart so that the doctors can see much more clearly how the heart functions. One of the concerns that many parents of HLHS children have when using MRIs is the need of general anesthesia. However, the MRI examination takes up to an hour to gather a complete image which requires the patient to hold his or her breath multiple times, each lasting around 10 seconds. In older children, adolescents or adults, this can be done without any problem. However, infants and young children cannot hold their breath when asked, so general anesthesia is required to take control of their breath during the examination.
“While there is a concern about young children receiving general anesthesia, the benefits outweigh the risks,” says Dr. Yasir Qureshi, pediatric cardiologist and researcher at Mayo Clinic. “We are able to better address any problems by using MRI because we are able to get better visualization of the major blood vessels and assessment of the pump function of the heart.”
MRIs are an important technique used to gather information and help with the research at the Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. For more information, please contact us at HLHS@mayo.edu.
The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a collaborative network of specialists bonded by the vision of delaying or preventing heart failure for individuals affected by congenital heart defects including HLHS. The specialized team is addressing the various aspects of these defects by using research and clinical strategies ranging from basic science, to diagnostic imaging to regenerative therapies.
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