New York Methodist Offers MRI Stress Test

Dec 3, 2008

Dr. John Heitner sitting at his desk

John Heitner, M.D., director of advanced cardiac imaging at NYM.

In the United States, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the number one killer, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women each year. The disease develops when a combination of calcium, plaque and fatty materials build up in the arteries, restricting the flow of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart. Two years ago, New York Methodist became the first hospital in Brooklyn to use cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help diagnose CAD and other heart conditions. The noninvasive medical procedure provides very accurate images of the heart, which are important to the initial diagnosis and subsequent management of coronary artery disease.

Fast forward to the present: the Hospital is once again in the forefront of diagnostic cardiology. The New York Methodist-Cornell Heart Center is now performing "real time" stress MRI testing, a new feature of cardiac MRI, which offers physicians an alternative for diagnosing coronary artery disease in patients who are unable to exercise because of health reasons. Stress tests provide doctors with information about how well the heart performs under physical stress. They can detect abnormalities in blood flow to the heart muscle that could be indicative of severe blockages in the coronary arteries.

For stress MRI testing, the patient is given adenosine, a drug that causes the body to mimic the effects of exercise on the heart, while undergoing the MRI procedure, which produces high-speed images that depict the blood flowing into the heart muscle. One of the advantages of stress MRI is that it is able to capture the heart's movement in "real-time, as the heart contracts and relaxes. "This test provides a great new way to look at the heart," said John Heitner, director of non-invasive imaging at NYM.

In addition, stress MRI does not require the use of radiation and enables doctors to see smaller, less noticeable, heart attacks. "The procedure lasts for about 35 minutes, which is the same as an echocardiogram," Dr. Heitner said. NYM is the only hospital in Brooklyn performing the test. Stress MRI is not suited for patients with pacemakers, ear implants, defibrillators or metal clips. Among patients who had a negative stress MRI test, 97 percent were free of heart disease during the first year following testing.

For more information about cardiac care at New York Methodist Hospital or to schedule an appointment call the Hospital's Institute for Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery at 1 866-84-HEART.