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Occurrence of late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) as assessed by cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging has been attributed to various myocardial injuries. We hypothesized that LGE is associated with left ventricular (LV) wall stress.We examined 300 patients with suspected non-ischaemic dilated cardiomyopathy. Cardiac magnetic resonance was used to assess LV volume, mass, wall stress, and LGE. Increased LV end-diastolic wall stress (> 4 kPa) was found in 112 patients (37 %), and increased end-systolic wall stress (>18 kPa) in 121 patients (40%). Presence of LGE was observed in 93 patients (31%). End-diastolic (94 ± 43 vs. 79 ± 42 ml/m², P = 0.006) and end-systolic LV volumes (62 ± 44 vs. 44 ± 37 ml/m², P < 0.001) and LV mass (95 ± 34 vs. 78 ± 31 g/m², P < 0.001) were increased in patients exhibiting LGE. In particular, LV end-diastolic and end-systolic wall stress were increased (4.5 ± 2.8 vs. 3.6 ± 3.0 kPa, P = 0.025; 19.6 ± 9.1 vs. 17.5 ± 8.2 kPa, P = 0.045). Late gadolinium enhancement was observed more frequently than would be expected from random occurrence in patients with increased end-diastolic (39 vs. 26%, P = 0.020) and end-systolic wall stress (41 vs. 24%, P = 0.002). Both normal end-diastolic and end-systolic wall stress had a high negative predictive value for LGE (75 and 76%).The present study shows that occurrence of LGE in cardiomyopathy is associated with increased LV wall stress and mass. Suspected causes are an increased capillary leakage by stretch, impaired contrast agent redistribution, or increased diffusion distances. It is proposed that LGE should be considered as a potential prognostic determinant of heart failure and severe arrhythmias.