BACKGROUND: Myocardial fibrosis is a common hallmark of many diseases of the heart. Late gadolinium enhanced MRI is a powerful tool to image replacement fibrosis after myocardial infarction (MI). Interstitial fibrosis can be assessed indirectly from an extracellular volume fraction measurement using contrast-enhanced T1 mapping. Detection of short T2* species resulting from fibrotic tissue may provide an attractive non-contrast-enhanced alternative to directly visualize the presence of both replacement and interstitial fibrosis.
OBJECTIVE: To goal of this paper was to explore the use of a T2*-weighted radial sequence for the visualization of fibrosis in mouse heart.
METHODS: C57BL/6 mice were studied with MI (n = 20, replacement fibrosis), transverse aortic constriction (TAC) (n = 18, diffuse fibrosis), and as control (n = 10). 3D center-out radial T2*-weighted images with varying TE were acquired in vivo and ex vivo (TE = 21 μs-4 ms). Ex vivo T2*-weighted signal decay with TE was analyzed using a 3-component model. Subtraction of short- and long-TE images was used to highlight fibrotic tissue with short T2*. The presence of fibrosis was validated using histology and correlated to MRI findings.
RESULTS: Detailed ex vivo T2*-weighted signal analysis revealed a fast (T2*fast), slow (T2*slow) and lipid (T2*lipid) pool. T2*fast remained essentially constant. Infarct T2*slow decreased significantly, while a moderate decrease was observed in remote tissue in post-MI hearts and in TAC hearts. T2*slow correlated with the presence of diffuse fibrosis in TAC hearts (r = 0.82, P = 0.01). Ex vivo and in vivo subtraction images depicted a positive contrast in the infarct co-localizing with the scar. Infarct volumes from histology and subtraction images linearly correlated (r = 0.94, P<0.001). Region-of-interest analysis in the in vivo post-MI and TAC hearts revealed significant T2* shortening due to fibrosis, in agreement with the ex vivo results. However, in vivo contrast on subtraction images was rather poor, hampering a straightforward visual assessment of the spatial distribution of the fibrotic tissue.