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BACKGROUND: In patients with angina and nonobstructive coronary artery disease (NOCAD), confirming symptoms due to coronary microvascular dysfunction (CMD) remains challenging. Cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) assesses myocardial perfusion with high spatial resolution and is widely used for diagnosing obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD). OBJECTIVES: The goal of this study was to validate CMR for diagnosing microvascular angina in patients with NOCAD, compared with patients with obstructive CAD and correlated to the index of microcirculatory resistance (IMR) during invasive coronary angiography. METHODS: Fifty patients with angina (65 ± 9 years of age) and 20 age-matched healthy control subjects underwent adenosine stress CMR (1.5- and 3-T) to assess left ventricular function, inducible ischemia (myocardial perfusion reserve index [MPRI]; myocardial blood flow [MBF]), and infarction (late gadolinium enhancement). During subsequent angiography within 7 days, 28 patients had obstructive CAD (fractional flow reserve [FFR] ≤0.8) and 22 patients had NOCAD (FFR >0.8) who underwent 3-vessel IMR measurements. RESULTS: In patients with NOCAD, myocardium with IMR <25 U had normal MPRI (1.9 ± 0.4 vs. controls 2.0 ± 0.3; p = 0.49); myocardium with IMR ≥25 U had significantly impaired MPRI, similar to ischemic myocardium downstream of obstructive CAD (1.2 ± 0.3 vs. 1.2 ± 0.4; p = 0.61). An MPRI of 1.4 accurately detected impaired perfusion related to CMD (IMR ≥25 U; FFR >0.8) (area under the curve: 0.90; specificity: 95%; sensitivity: 89%; p < 0.001). Impaired MPRI in patients with NOCAD was driven by impaired augmentation of MBF during stress, with normal resting MBF. Myocardium with FFR >0.8 and normal IMR (<25 U) still had blunted stress MBF, suggesting mild CMD, which was distinguishable from control subjects by using a stress MBF threshold of 2.3 ml/min/g with 100% positive predictive value. CONCLUSIONS: In angina patients with NOCAD, CMR can objectively and noninvasively assess microvascular angina. A CMR-based combined diagnostic pathway for both epicardial and microvascular CAD deserves further clinical validation.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Coll Cardiol

Publication Date





969 - 979


cardiac magnetic resonance, index of microcirculatory resistance, inducible ischemia, microvascular dysfunction, myocardial perfusion reserve index, Aged, Coronary Angiography, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cine, Male, Microcirculation, Microvascular Angina, Middle Aged, Prospective Studies