Model-Based Characterization of the Transpulmonary Circulation by Dynamic Contrast-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Heart Failure and Healthy Volunteers

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Novel quantitative measures of transpulmonary circulation status may allow the improvement of heart failure (HF) patient management. In this work, we propose a method for the assessment of the transpulmonary circulation using measurements from indicator time intensity curves, derived from dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) series. The derived indicator dilution parameters in healthy volunteers (HVs) and HF patients were compared, and repeatability was assessed. Furthermore, we compared the parameters derived using the proposed method with standard measures of cardiovascular function, such as left ventricular (LV) volumes and ejection fraction.

Materials and Methods

In total, 19 HVs and 33 HF patients underwent a DCE-MRI scan on a 1.5 T MRI scanner using a T1-weighted spoiled gradient echo sequence. Image loops with 1 heartbeat temporal resolution were acquired in 4-chamber view during ventricular late diastole, after the injection of a 0.1-mmol gadoteriol bolus. In a subset of subjects (8 HFs, 2 HVs), a second injection of a 0.3-mmol gadoteriol bolus was performed with the same imaging settings. The study was approved by the local institutional review board.

Materials and Methods

Indicator dilution curves were derived, averaging the MR signal within regions of interest in the right and left ventricle; parametric deconvolution was performed between the right and LV indicator dilution curves to identify the impulse response of the transpulmonary dilution system. The local density random walk model was used to parametrize the impulse response; pulmonary transit time (PTT) was defined as the mean transit time of the indicator. λ, related to the Péclet number (ratio between convection and diffusion) for the dilution process, was also estimated.


Pulmonary transit time was significantly prolonged in HF patients (8.70 ± 1.87 seconds vs 6.68 ± 1.89 seconds in HV, P < 0.005) and even stronger when normalized to subject heart rate (normalized PTT, 9.90 ± 2.16 vs 7.11 ± 2.17 in HV, dimensionless, P < 0.001). λ was significantly smaller in HF patients (8.59 ± 4.24 in HF vs 12.50 ± 17.09 in HV, dimensionless, P < 0.005), indicating a longer tail for the impulse response. Pulmonary transit time correlated well with established cardiovascular parameters (LV end-diastolic volume index, r = 0.61, P < 0.0001; LV ejection fraction, r = −0.64, P < 0.0001). The measurement of indicator dilution parameters was repeatable (correlation between estimates based on the 2 repetitions for PTT: r = 0.94, P < 0.001, difference between 2 repetitions 0.01 ± 0.60 second, for λ: r = 0.74, P < 0.01, difference 0.69 ± 4.39).


Characterization of the transpulmonary circulation by DCE-MRI is feasible in HF patients and HVs. Significant differences are observed between indicator dilution parameters measured in HVs and HF patients; preliminary results suggest good repeatability for the proposed parameters.

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