Pioneering 7 Tesla MR cardiac study

Pioneering 7 Tesla MR cardiac study

February 18, 2016

Joining forces, researchers from Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) have utilized, for the first time ever, a 7T MRI scanner in large cardiac study.

Cardiovascular MR, or CMR, is a vital imaging procedure for precisely diagnosing myocardial diseases. The problem it is often compromised by heart's constant movement. The researchers wanted to find out if the crisper pictures acquired with a more powerful magnet would allow greater insight into the condition of patients with abnormal heart muscle thickening than 3T magnets. 

It was reported the physicians were able to see structures on microscopic scale, including pathological changes and small indents in muscles. For example, they were able to better assess patients with, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetically determined thickening of the heart muscle. 

As of now, only five centers in the world can perform heart visualisation with 7T MR, and their capabilities are limited to the context of research. Yet, according to Siegfried Trattnig, a 7T researcher in Vienna, the benefits of 7T MR imaging include a higher signal-to-noise ratio, a higher spectral resolution, and higher susceptibility effects to improve the spatial resolution. 

Dr. Jeanette Schulz-Menger, who led the new research, said in a statement, "our aim was to test the potential of 7T MRI scanning in patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and to test whether the technology is capable of visualizing even the smallest morphological changes." 

In order to succeed, researchers compared data obtained from patients with abnormal thickening of the heart muscle who had undergone 7T MR with 2D CINE imaging and a 3T MR scan. In addition, they studied images of healthy volunteers acquired with a 7T MRI scanner. 

The results suggest that the 7T system allowed the researchers to detect "myocardial crypts" - tiny wells in muscles that had not been previously detectable. 

"In seven out of 13 patients, we were able to adequately visualize minute depression in the myocardial tissue of the left ventricle," said Dr. Marcel Prothmann, the study's first author. "The technology's high spatial resolution constitutes a massive leap forward in terms of imaging quality. It allows the precise visualization of structural changes within areas of extensive thickening."