Back to body parts


Find Imaging Centers
Medically reviewed for accuracy
3 minutes reading time

Chest MRI

Chest MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a powerful diagnostic tool that provides detailed images of structures within the chest cavity, offering valuable insights into various health conditions. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, MRI uses strong magnets and radio waves to create images without ionizing radiation, making it particularly advantageous for patients who require frequent imaging or have concerns about radiation exposure. This non-invasive technique captures high-resolution images of the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and surrounding tissues, aiding in the diagnosis and monitoring of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disorders, and mediastinal abnormalities. 

Why would a doctor order an MRI?

A chest MRI, also including lung MRI and thorax MRI scan, is typically recommended by doctors when they suspect an issue or abnormality in the chest area that cannot be adequately diagnosed through a physical exam or other imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans. Some of the main reasons a doctor may order a chest MRI include:

  • To investigate symptoms like unexplained chest pain or shortness of breath
  • To detect or monitor conditions affecting the heart, lungs, blood vessels, lymph nodes, or other structures in the chest
  • To diagnose and monitor tumors, cancers, or other growths in the chest
  • To evaluate birth defects or abnormalities of the heart and surrounding structures
  • To assess blood flow and vascular issues like aneurysms in the chest

The chest MRI provides detailed, high-quality images that allow doctors to see soft tissues and structures beyond what can be seen on an X-ray. This makes it a valuable tool for diagnosing and monitoring a wide range of chest-related medical conditions.

What are the Benefits of a Chest MRI?

The benefits of a Chest MRI include:

  1. Detailed Imaging: Provides high-resolution images of soft tissues, blood vessels, and organs in the chest, offering detailed anatomical information.
  2. No Radiation: Uses magnets and radio waves instead of ionizing radiation, making it safer for repeated use and for patients sensitive to radiation.
  3. Multi-Planar Views: Capable of producing images in multiple planes (sagittal, axial, coronal), aiding in a comprehensive evaluation of complex chest anatomy.
  4. Evaluation of Soft Tissues: Helps diagnose and monitor conditions affecting the heart, lungs, mediastinum, and surrounding tissues, such as tumors, inflammation, and vascular abnormalities.
  5. Guidance for Treatment: Assists in planning surgeries, biopsies, and other interventional procedures by precisely mapping out anatomical structures and abnormalities.
  6. Safety in Specific Populations: Particularly valuable for pediatric patients, pregnant women, and individuals requiring frequent imaging due to its non-invasive nature and lack of ionizing radiation.

Overall, Chest MRI is a versatile tool that enhances diagnostic accuracy, guides treatment decisions, and improves patient safety compared to other imaging modalities that use ionizing radiation.

What can chest MRI diagnose?

Chest MRI is utilized for various diagnostic purposes, including:

  1. Cardiovascular Evaluation: Assessing heart structure and function, detecting heart abnormalities such as cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, or cardiac tumors.
  2. Vascular Imaging: Examining blood vessels for conditions such as aortic aneurysms, dissections, pulmonary embolism, or evaluating vascular malformations.
  3. Mediastinal Assessment: Imaging the mediastinum to detect tumours, lymphadenopathy, or assess thymus gland abnormalities.
  4. Tumour Evaluation: Characterising and staging tumors within the chest, including primary lung tumors, metastases, or other thoracic malignancies.
  5. Evaluation of Thoracic Spine: Assessing spinal cord or nerve root compression, evaluating vertebral fractures, or spinal tumors extending into the chest cavity.

Overall, Chest MRI is a versatile imaging modality that complements other diagnostic tools like CT scans and provides detailed anatomical and functional information critical for diagnosing and managing a wide range of chest-related conditions.

What does an MRI scan show?

Heart and Blood Vessels:

  • Detailed images of the heart, including its chambers, valves, and blood vessels (such as the aorta and pulmonary arteries).
  • It can assess heart function, detect heart muscle damage, and evaluate congenital heart defects.
  1. Lungs:some text
    • Lung MRI (chest MRI) shows detailed images of lung tissues.
    • It can help identify tumors, inflammation, infections, or other lung abnormalities.
  2. Mediastinum:some text
    • The area between the lungs contains the heart, esophagus, trachea, and major blood vessels.
    • It can detect tumors, lymph node enlargement, and other abnormalities in this region.
  3. Chest Wall:some text
    • Muscles, ribs, and other structures of the chest wall.
    • It can help identify abnormalities such as tumors or infections affecting these areas.

How Does a Chest MRI Help Diagnose Heart Conditions?

Chest pain is a serious symptom that requires immediate medical evaluation to rule out potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or pulmonary embolism. While Chest MRI is not typically the first-line imaging modality for acute chest pain, it can play a valuable role in diagnosing underlying heart conditions in specific situations:

  1. Detailed Cardiac Imaging: MRI provides high-resolution images of the heart, allowing for detailed assessment of its structure, function, and blood flow patterns.
  2. Detection of Cardiac Abnormalities: It can detect and characterize various heart conditions, including cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, and congenital heart defects.
  3. Evaluation of Heart Muscle and Perfusion: MRI can assess for areas of reduced blood flow (ischemia), scar tissue from previous heart attacks, and abnormalities in heart muscle function that may contribute to chest pain.
  4. Alternative to Radiation: MRI does not use ionizing radiation, which may be preferable for patients who require repeated imaging or have concerns about radiation exposure.

Pre-MRI Checklist for Chest MRI

Before undergoing an MRI scan, it's important to follow certain guidelines to ensure a smooth and successful procedure. 

Here's a checklist to help you prepare:

  • Remove Metal Objects: Take off jewelry, watches, hearing aids, and any other metal objects.
  • Check for Implants: Inform the MRI technician if you have metal implants, pacemakers, cochlear implants, or any other metal or electronic devices in your body. Some implants may not be MRI-compatible.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Wear loose-fitting clothing without metal fasteners or opt for a hospital gown provided by the facility.
  • Avoid Metallic Clothing: Do not wear clothes with metallic threads or accessories.
  • Discuss Claustrophobia: If you are claustrophobic, talk to your doctor about options such as sedatives or open MRI machines.
  • Follow Eating and Drinking Instructions: Follow any specific instructions regarding food and drink. Generally, there are no restrictions, but some cases may vary.
  • Medication: Continue to take prescribed medications unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

By following this checklist, you can help ensure a safe and efficient MRI scan. Always consult your healthcare provider or the MRI facility if you have any specific questions or concerns before the procedure.

How long does a Chest MRI take?

The duration of a Chest MRI typically ranges from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on several factors:

  • Type of Scan: Whether it includes additional sequences or requires contrast enhancement.
  • Area of Interest: The extent of imaging needed to capture the entire chest cavity and relevant structures.
  • Patient Factors: Factors such as patient cooperation, ability to remain still, and specific conditions requiring additional scan time.


If you're experiencing persistent chest symptoms or have been advised to undergo further evaluation, consider scheduling a chest MRI with GetScanned. Early and precise diagnosis is key to effective treatment and peace of mind.

Book your chest MRI with GetScanned today and ensure you receive the most accurate diagnosis and care!

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
Book a GP consultation

Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

Still have questions?

Can't see an answer to your question? Our friendly customer care team are happy to help.

Contact Us
Get Scanned Today
Search scan center