Did your doctor order a “chest MRI” for something other than your heart, and you’re wondering if it’ll still show your heart and even cardiac function?

My primary care physician ordered an imaging study, which was termed chest MRI.

When people get an image ordered for their chest, they may wonder if this will automatically show heart structure – especially of the imaging modality is an MRI.

Years ago a cardiologist ordered an MRI for my heart – specifically, an MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) – because he wanted to find out the cause of what his stethoscope picked up: a class II heart murmur.

The MRA detailed measurements of structures plus functions such as ventricular ejection fraction. All was normal, and he was unable to hear the heart murmur the following year.

So when my general doctor ordered the “chest MRI,” I wondered if it would pick up anything involving my heart.

It had not dawned on me to ask him this when I was in his office. I was too worried about the reason for the chest MRI in the first place: a hard lump below my breastbone.

When I was in the MRI room with the technician, I asked her if it would show anything about my heart including function.

She said no, that this was not a “cardiac MRI.” She also demonstrated just how much the imaging was plotted for: just a small area surrounding the lump (which had marker tape on it), and then going deep about two inches further back into my chest. This confined, designated area would not pick up my heart.

Thus, a “chest MRI” doesn’t automatically mean it will be programmed to include a visual of your heart.

Of course, if the reason for the imaging study is cardiac related, it will show your heart structure and function.

Ultimately, you should ask your doctor what the MRI will pick up and what it won’t. My cardiac MRA actually picked up my liver and kidneys.

As for what that hard little lump was, it was normal anatomy.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.