Cardiac MRI Allows Doctors to Look At The Heart Without Cutting

Apr 5, 2007

Cardiac MRI Allows Doctors to Look At The Heart Without Cutting


Date: April 5, 2007

Title: Cardiac MRI Allows Doctors to Look At The Heart Without Cutting

Health Topic: Cardiology

Contact: Melissa Chefec, MCPR Public Relations, 203-968-6625


For Immediate Release



New York Methodist Hospital Among First in NYC to Offer the Innovative Test


Brooklyn, NY April 2007 - A new noninvasive technique is taking some of the guesswork-as well as the legwork-out of diagnosing and preventing cardiovascular diseases. According to John Heitner, MD, director of advanced cardiac imaging at New York Methodist Hospital, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as the technique is called, is truly innovative because it allows doctors to view detailed images of the heart-without having to cut open the chest or thread a catheter through the veins or arteries.


"We're very excited to be among one of the only hospitals in New York City to offer this new noninvasive technology to help diagnose and treat heart disease," said Anthony Tortolani, MD, chairman of cardiothoracic surgery. "It has so many advantages for patients. It's highly accurate, versatile, and safe", added Dr. Tortolani.


According to Dr. Heitner, "the new technology can be used to evaluate chest pain and determine if a heart attack is or has occurred-in many instances, it can be quicker and more accurate than stress testing, electrocardiograms (ECGs) or other diagnostic techniques." MRI allow cardiologists to see if larger blood vessels are blocked and if there are plaques (build-ups of fatty and other materials) in the vessels, and whether they are stable or likely to rupture and cause a heart attack in the future. Recently, too, researchers have shown cardiac MRI can create movie-like images of the beating heart, so doctors can assess damage to the heart muscle while it's moving. This can help them evaluate how well the heart is pumping blood and whether the heart lining is swollen, so they can prescribe treatments. And it can be used to follow heart patients after they''ve had angioplasty or surgery.


How MRI Works

Cardiac MRI uses radiofrequency waves and a powerful magnetic field to create images of the heart on a computer screen. The MRI machine directs the waves at protons that form the nuclei of hydrogen atoms in the body, causing the protons to vibrate. These vibrations release a radiofrequency signal that can be converted by computer to form three-dimensional images. One of the major benefits of cardiac MRI is that it can often create these intricate pictures of the heart and blood vessels without injection of a contrast material, which requires the use of an intravenous line.


Key Questions and Answers about Cardiac MRI

Before you undergo any procedure, you need to know about its risks and benefits. Here, some of the most commonly asked questions about cardiac MRI:



  1. Are there any risks associated with this test? Unlike X-rays and computed tomography scans, there''s no exposure to radiation with MRI, so it's quite safe. However, doctors usually avoid performing the test in women who are less than 3 months'' pregnant, so as not to harm a developing baby.
  2. How do I prepare for an MRI? Make sure your health-care team knows about any iron-containing objects in your body-a heart pacemaker, an implanted defibrillator, an infusion catheter, metal plates, pins, screws, or surgical staples, or an intrauterine device. You may need a different kind of test because the magnetic field created by the MRI machine will pull on these objects. Also, be sure to remove any jewelry on the day of the test.
  3. Will I need anesthesia or sedation? You won''t need anesthesia, but some people who are anxious or claustrophobic might want to ask for a sedative so they can stay still in the MRI unit. According to the Radiological Society of North America, fewer than one in 20 patients requires a sedative.
  4. How long does the procedure last? Anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. It depends on how many images your doctor needs. "Your job is to stay as calm and still as possible during the time the MRI machine is scanning," says Dr. Heitner. "But don''t worry: If you have any concerns or questions during the test, you can talk to the technician or radiologist via an intercom."
  5. Will I feel anything during the procedure? No, but you might hear some clanking and clicking noises. The MRI equipment can be noisy.







For more information, please call the New York Methodist Hospital Institute for Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery toll free at (866) 84-HEART (43278) or visit them on the web at


Bio: Dr. Anthony J Tortolani

Dr. Anthony J Tortolani, Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at New York Methodist Hospital, is a leading cardiothoracic surgeon with extensive practice in the surgical treatment of diseases affecting the heart and chest cavity including coronary bypass surgery and valvular heart surgery. He is the Professor of Clinical Cardiothoracic Surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Medical College of Cornell University.A graduate of George Washington University School of Medicine, he completed a general surgery residency at North Shore University Hospital and served in the United States Air Force as a Major. He completed a Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship at New York University Medical Center. He is an attending physician at New York Methodist Hospital and The New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.Dr. Tortolani has been active in Cardiothoracic Research for over 20 years and has published extensively in medical journals since 1966. Additionally, he has been the principal investigator of clinical evaluations of several grants from the National Institute of Health, Heart and Vascular Diseases Division and The Association for Surgical Education. He is past President of the New York Society of Thoracic Surgery and is presently a Governor of the American College of Surgeons.Dr. Tortolani has received certificates of recognition on "How to Find the Best Doctors: New York Metro Area" from 1997 through 2006, and he appeared in the New York Magazine''s June 5, 2000 issue, "The Best Doctors in New York - Thoracic Surgery." Additionally, he has been recognized in "Top Doctors: New York Metro Area, Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. - 1994 - 2006, and "Guide to Americas Top Physicians, Consumers'' Research Council of America, 2002 - 2007.


Bio: Dr. John Heitner

Dr. John Heitner, Director of Advanced Cardiac Imaging at New York Methodist Hospital, is a leading cardiologist with extensive practice in cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. He is affiliated with Duke University''s Cardiovascular MRI Center where he has spent 2 years conducting research on MRI technology versus other stress testing equipment.A graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he did a residency at Duke University for Internal Medicine. He then carried out cardiology fellowship programs at Emory University and Duke University. Well-published on a variety of cardiology-related studies, he has been awarded the Robert Califf Clinical Research Award at Duke University for excellence in clinical research.