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Qualitative and Quantitative Evaluation of Structural Myocardial Alterations by Grating-Based Phase-Contrast Computed Tomography

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Abstract

Objectives

Grating-based phase-contrast computed tomography (gb-PCCT) relies on x-ray refraction instead of absorption to generate high-contrast images in biological soft tissue. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of gb-PCCT for the depiction of structural changes in heart disease.

Materials and Methods

Four human heart specimens from patients with hypertensive disease, ischemic disease, dilated heart disease, and cardiac lipomatosis were examined. The gb-PCCT setup consisted of an x-ray tube (40 kV, 70 mA), grating-interferometer, and detector, and allowed simultaneous acquisition of phase- and absorption-contrast data. With histopathology as the standard of reference, myocardium (MC), fibrotic scar (FS), interstitial fibrosis (IF), and fatty tissue (FT) were visually and quantitatively evaluated. Systematic differences in absorption- and phase-contrast Hounsfield units (HUabs and HUp) were assessed.

Results

Thirteen corresponding cross-sections were included, and MC, FS, IF, and FT were found in 13 (100%), 4 (30.8%), 7 (53.8%), and 13 (100%) cross-sections, respectively. Mean HUp/HUabs were 52.5/54.1, 86.6/69.7, 62.4/62.3, and −38.6/−258.9 for MC, FS, IF, and FT, respectively. An overlap in HUabs was observed for MC and IF (P = 0.84) but not for HUp (P < 0.01). Contrast-to-noise ratios were significantly higher in phase- than in absorption-contrast for MC/FT (35.4 vs 7.8; P < 0.01) and for MC/FS (12.3 vs 0.2; P < 0.01).

Conclusions

Given its superior soft tissue contrast, gb-PCCT is able to depict structural changes in different cardiomyopathies, which can currently not be obtained by x-ray absorption-based imaging methods. If current technical limitations can be overcome, gb-PCCT may evolve as a powerful tool for the anatomical assessment of cardiomyopathy.

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