Contrast-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Coronary Arteries
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The advent and continued improvement of T1-shortening contrast media have revolutionized magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) of the entire body in recent years. The technical basis for contrast-enhanced MRA is fast three-dimensional (3D) imaging. A brief historic review of the technical advances in MR coronary artery imaging clearly points to the importance of improved gradient capabilities that led to the development and wide application of fast 3D imaging. The use of contrast agents in coronary artery imaging has been expected for many years, given its success in other parts of the body. Nevertheless, because of the potential difficulties and unique characteristics of fast 3D imaging in the heart, the utility of contrast agents in coronary artery imaging has been systematically investigated only in the last 2 years. Initial experience from our group and others showed that contrast agents have great potential in pushing MR coronary artery imaging to a much higher level in terms of speed and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and intravascular agents are more desirable than extracellular agents. Nevertheless, because of the technical challenges and the diversity of methods used for coronary artery imaging, much more effort is needed to continue to improve the imaging techniques and further to define the roles of contrast agents in coronary artery imaging.
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