Volumetric black-blood cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) has been hampered by long scan times and flow sensitivity. The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of black-blood, electrocardiogram (ECG)-triggered and respiratory-navigated 3D fast spin echo (3D FSE) for the visualization of the whole heart and great vessels.
The implemented 3D FSE technique used slice-selective excitation and non-selective refocusing pulses with variable flip angles to achieve constant echo signal for tissue with T1 (880 ms) and T2 (40 ms) similar to the vessel wall. Ten healthy subjects and 21 patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) underwent 3D FSE and conventional 3D balanced steady-state free precession (bSSFP). The sequences were compared in terms of ability to perform segmental assessment, local signal-to-noise ratio (SNRl) and local contrast-to-noise ratio (CNRl).
In both healthy subjects and patients with CHD, 3D FSE showed superior pulmonary vein but inferior coronary artery origin visualisation compared to 3D bSFFP. However, in patients with CHD the combination of 3D bSSFP and 3D FSE whole-heart imaging improves the success rate of cardiac morphological diagnosis to 100% compared to either technique in isolation (3D FSE, 23.8% success rate, 3D bSSFP, 5% success rate). In the healthy subjects SNRl for 3D bSSFP was greater than for 3D FSE (30.1 ± 7.3 vs 20.9 ± 5.3; P = 0.002) whereas the CNRl was comparable (17.3 ± 5.6 vs 17.4 ± 4.9; P = 0.91) between the two scans.
The feasibility of 3D FSE for whole-heart black-blood CMR imaging has been demonstrated. Due to their high success rate for segmental assessment, the combination of 3D bSSFP and 3D FSE may be an attractive alternative to gadolinium contrast enhanced morphological CMR in patients with CHD.