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To compare a new 12-element body phased-array coil with a conventional four-element surface receiver coil array to provide increased signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) for cardiac steady state free precession (SSFP) perfusion imaging.Thirteen consecutive patients were included in the study. Patients were examined both with a four-element surface coil array and a 12-element body coil array. First-pass myocardial perfusion imaging using saturation recovery SSFP was acquired during antecubital injection of Gd-DTPA. Imaging parameters: TR 2.8 msec/TE 1.3 msec, flip angle 50°, bandwidth 960 Hz/pixel and half-Fourier acquisition. SNR was calculated using six regions of interest (ROI) for the myocardial perfusion scans. Calculations of corresponding ROIs using the two different coil setups were compared using analysis of variance (ANOVA). Semiquantitative perfusion parameters were calculated for both groups.The mean SNR in myocardial perfusion imaging increased by 21% using the 12-element coil setup (P < 0.001) when compared to the four-element coil. ROI comparisons revealed an increased signal inhomogeneity with the 12-element coil when compared to four-element coil experiments. Absolute normal range values of semiquantitative perfusion parameters were consistently higher using the 12-element coil setup (P < 0.001).The 12-element coil array provides higher SNR, but these improvements come with trade-offs in image homogeneity. Increased SNR translates into higher semiquantitative perfusion values and offers the potential for improved detection of perfusion defects. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2005;21:310–316. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.