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BACKGROUND: Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging of macroscopic coronary vessels is rapidly advancing, whereas little attention has focused on development of NMR techniques for investigation of coronary microvessels. Such techniques would be of particular importance, since conventional methods to visualize coronary microvessels have specific limitations. The aim of our study was to develop two- and three-dimensional (2D and 3D) high-resolution imaging of coronary microvessels. Quantitative analysis of vessel size was performed in tomograms and applied to evaluate the vasoconstrictor effect of endothelin 1. METHODS AND RESULTS: Angiographic imaging was performed on an 11.75-T magnet by 2D and 3D gradient-echo pulse sequences. In tomograms, the validity of this method in providing correct vessel size was tested by phantom experiments. Experiments were carried out in the isolated constant-pressure-perfused rat heart with continuous registration of coronary flow and left ventricular pressure. NMR pulse sequences were pressure-triggered in mid diastole. Four groups of hearts were studied. In group 1 (n = 20), 2D imaging perpendicular and parallel to the long axis of the heart was performed. Cross sections of vessels with diameter > 140 microns were clearly detectable. In group 2 (control, n = 5) and group 3 (n = 13), tomograms perpendicular to the long axis were obtained before and after administration of vehicle (group 2) and 200 pmol endothelin 1 bolus (group 3). Vehicle had no effect on vessel cross section. Endothelin 1, which decreased global coronary flow by 47%, reduced vessel cross section by 38 +/- 19%. A weak but, on average, significant inverse correlation between area of cross section and vessel size was found. In group 4 (n = 10), 3D imaging was performed in 7 normal hearts and 3 hearts with anterior myocardial infarction. A 3D image of the entire coronary artery tree was obtained, revealing excellent agreement with anatomic studies. In infarcted rat hearts, occlusion of the left coronary artery was demonstrated. CONCLUSIONS: Visualization and quantification of coronary microvessels are feasible by NMR microscopy. NMR microscopy bears the potential of becoming a powerful tool for the investigation of the coronary microcirculation.


Journal article



Publication Date





968 - 977


Animals, Coronary Vessels, Endothelins, Heart, In Vitro Techniques, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Microcirculation, Pharmaceutical Vehicles, Rats, Rats, Wistar