Background - High-resolution MRI has the potential to noninvasively image the human coronary artery wall and define the degree and nature of coronary artery disease. Coronary artery imaging by MR has been limited by artifacts related to blood flow and motion and by low spatial resolution. Methods and Results - We used a noninvasive black-blood (BB) MRI (BB-MR) method, free of motion and blood-flow artifacts, for high-resolution (down to 0.46 mm in-plane resolution and 3-mm slice thickness) imaging of the coronary artery lumen and wall. In vivo BB-MR of both normal and atherosclerotic human coronary arteries was performed in 13 subjects: 8 normal subjects and 5 patients with coronary artery disease. The average coronary wall thickness for each cross-sectional image was 0.75 ± 0.17 mm (range, 0.55 to 1.0 mm) in the normal subjects. MR images of coronary arteries in patients with ≥40% stenosis as assessed by x-ray angiography showed localized wall thickness of 4.38 ± 0.71 mm (range, 3.30 to 5.73 mm). The difference in maximum wall thickness between the normal subjects and patients was statistically significant (P<0.0001). Conclusions - In vivo high-spatial-resolution BB-MR provides a unique new method to noninvasively image and assess the morphological features of human coronary arteries. This may allow the identification of atherosclerotic disease before it is symptomatic. Further studies are necessary to identify the different plaque components and to assess lesions in asymptomatic patients and their outcomes.
- Coronary disease
- Magnetic resonance imaging