October 25, 2021

Cardiac MRI vs. Echo

Woman sitting on the couch checking her pulse.

A cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan and an echocardiogram (or echo) are tests that are used to assess the condition of the heart. But when looking at cardiac MRI vs. echocardiography, there are differences in what aspects of the heart’s structure and function they’re designed to help evaluate. 

Your doctor might prescribe a cardiac MRI if there’s an indication that you’re at risk for heart problems like heart failure or a heart attack. An echo is used to look for problems with areas of the heart like the chambers, walls, and valves, as well as major blood vessels that enter or exit the heart or supply it with blood. 

What Is a Cardiac MRI?

A cardiac MRI is an imaging procedure that uses magnets and radio waves to “take pictures” of the heart and associated blood vessels. It’s used to assess the risk of or damage from conditions like:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Heart valve problems
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart)
  • Coronary artery disease

When comparing an MRI vs. echocardiogram, this list of conditions is somewhat different than those addressed with an echo. 

Don’t Leave Your Health to Chance

Have you ever wondered how healthy your heart is? Our quick heart health risk assessment can compare your actual age to your heart’s biological age, as well as calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Get started with our free online assessment today.

What Is an Echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a procedure in which high-frequency sound waves are used to create images of the heart. It can help a doctor assess:

  • How the heart moves and how well it pumps blood
  • The dimensions and shape of the heart and its walls, as well as the movement of the walls
  • Whether the heart valves are working properly or if they’re allowing blood to move in the wrong direction in the heart (called regurgitation)
  • The presence of stenosis or narrowing of the heart valves
  • Whether there’s an infection or a tumor on or around the heart valves

So, when comparing cardiac MRI vs. echocardiography, it’s clear they’re both important tests that help diagnose and treat conditions affecting the heart. 

What Is the Difference Between Cardiac MRI and Echocardiography?

For patients or family members looking to compare cardiac MRI and echo procedures, and wondering what the difference between an echo and an MRI is, the answer is that the two tests are very similar in their capabilities. The primary difference is that a cardiac MRI is more focused on diseases and defects that affect the heart, while an echocardiogram provides detailed information on the functioning of the heart and its valves.

And what’s most important is that your Baptist Health care team knows precisely when to use one imaging technique or the other. 

Learn More about Cardiac MRI and Echocardiography at Baptist Health

Cardiac MRI and echocardiography are vital tools for helping assess and protect heart health. If you’re scheduled for one of these procedures or simply want to know more about them, visit the Imaging & Diagnostics section on our website. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, you can find one near you using our online directory.

Next Steps and Useful Resources:

Find a Provider
Take a Free Heart Health Risk Assessment
Echocardiograms vs. EKGs and ECGs
Is it Safe to Get an MRI with an Implant?
How Does COVID-19 Affect the Heart?

Learn More.