Whole-Body Screening of Atherosclerosis With Magnetic Resonance Angiography

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With whole-body magnetic resonance angiography (WBMRA), it is possible to examine the whole arterial tree except intracranial and coronary vessels in a single examination without the risks involved in ionizing radiation or arterial cannulation. Whole-body magnetic resonance angiography is well suited for repeated clinical examinations in patients with systemic diseases such as vasculitis or atherosclerosis and can also be used for scientific purposes.

On the basis of the WBMRA overview, a possible further development of the WBMRA concept can be to perform further acquisitions at sites with atherosclerotic plaques with higher-resolution scans to determine the degree of stenosis more accurately or to achieve plaque characterization.

A total validation of WBMRA compared with digital subtraction angiography (DSA) is not possible owing to the hazards of ionizing radiation. Studies have shown a high sensitivity and specificity for the pelvic and lower limb arteries in comparison with DSA. No systematic validation against DSA has been performed for the renal, aortic, and carotid arteries. Various methods have been used, however, for confirmation of vascular abnormalities found on WBMRA such as ultrasonography, dedicated MRA, or DSA, with reasonably high agreement.

The WBMRA method has not been studied with regard to prediction of future cardiovascular (CV) events, as have intima media thickness, coronary artery calcium scoring, and the ankle-brachial index. The full usefulness of WBMRA in an epidemiological setting and as a complementary screening tool for assessing CV risk still needs to be validated against future CV events.

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