Heart Institute

CT Scan and MRI Heart Tests at Children's Hospital Colorado


Cardiac CT Scan

Your child's doctor could order a cardiac CT scan (also known as a CAT scan) to obtain more detailed information about your child’s heart than can be seen on a normal x-ray. The CT scan is a painless test that shows detailed images of the internal structures of the heart.

What to expect from a CT scan

During a cardiac CT scan, an x-ray machine moves around your child's body in a circle to take a picture of each part of his heart. A computer then puts the pictures together to make a three-dimensional (3D) picture of the whole heart.

Some CT scans might require that a dye is administered intravenously to your child to provide contrast for the picture. Your child will need to lie very still during the test for at least 30 minutes, and younger patients sometimes need to be lightly sedated.

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

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Doctors look at the results of a cardiac MRI to see how a child's heart is pumping and blood is flowing.

A cardiac MRI is a test that uses a large magnet to produce signals from the atoms within the body, and then collects and magnifies these signals into pictures of the body. An MRI can show clear images of the chambers of the heart and large blood vessels.

By using this test, your child's doctor can understand how well the heart is pumping and how blood is flowing through the heart and vessels.

What to expect from a cardiac MRI

Because an MRI can take a few hours to perform, most kids under 8 years old will receive general anesthesia to help them lie still during the test. Nearly all children will have an IV that is used to administer a contrast dye; this helps the doctor to see the heart and blood vessels more clearly.

Kids 8 years and older who come to the Anschutz Medical Campus can watch a movie during the test to help relax and pass the time. We have a collection of movies at the hospital, or feel free to bring your child's favorite. You're also welcome to bring an iPod, mp3 or CD player if your child would like to listen to music.

Learn about other common heart tests.