Heart valve disease: investigation by cardiovascular magnetic resonance.
Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) has become a valuable investigative tool in many areas of cardiac medicine. Its value in heart valve disease is less well appreciated however, particularly as echocardiography is a powerful and widely available technique in valve disease. This review highlights the added value that CMR can bring in valve disease, complementing echocardiography in many areas, but it has also become the first-line investigation in some, such as pulmonary valve disease and assessing the right ventricle. CMR has many advantages, including the ability to image in any plane, which allows full visualisation of valves and their inflow/outflow tracts, direct measurement of valve area (particularly for stenotic valves), and characterisation of the associated great vessel anatomy (e.g. the aortic root and arch in aortic valve disease). A particular strength is the ability to quantify flow, which allows accurate measurement of regurgitation, cardiac shunt volumes/ratios and differential flow volumes (e.g. left and right pulmonary arteries). Quantification of ventricular volumes and mass is vital for determining the impact of valve disease on the heart, and CMR is the 'Gold standard' for this. Limitations of the technique include partial volume effects due to image slice thickness, and a low ability to identify small, highly mobile objects (such as vegetations) due to the need to acquire images over several cardiac cycles. The review examines the advantages and disadvantages of each imaging aspect in detail, and considers how CMR can be used optimally for each valve lesion.