The difference between an MRA and an MRI is that the MRA is used specifically to examine a person's blood vessels, while an MRI is used to examine other parts of the body, such as the chest and abdomen, according to Healthline. Otherwise, both tests are exactly the same.
MRI stands for "magnetic resonance imaging," while MRA stands for "magnetic resonance angiography." Both imaging techniques use powerful magnets and radio waves to create images of the inside of a person's body, according to Healthline. Often, MRA exams are used to identify when a blood vessel becomes narrowed, blocked or otherwise damaged. MRA exams are particularly useful if a person has had a previous heart attack or stroke, as well as swelling of the aorta or inflammation of the blood vessels. The technique can also be used as a guide for surgeons to follow when they are making repairs to blood vessels or to evaluate the blood supply going into a tumor that needs to be removed.
Like MRIs, MRAs are extremely safe. Since they do not use X-rays, MRAs can be used as often as a doctor recommends, states Healthline. Most patients only experience symptoms as a result of the dye used during the procedure or the sedation sometimes administered before the procedure.