MRI enables early diagnosis of coronary artery disease

Researchers writing online in the journal Radiology have identified a magnetic resonance imaging technique that they believe can be used to diagnose early stage coronary artery disease.

The key to diagnosing early coronary artery disease is to identify the thickening of the coronary artery wall. But, that's not an easy proposition.

"Imaging the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood is extremely difficult because they are very small and constantly in motion," lead researcher Khaled Z. Abd-Elmoniem, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Biomedical and Metabolic Imaging branch of NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, said in an announcement.

The technical challenges are such that they have reduced MRI's coronary imaging success rate compared with coronary MR angiography, according to

"We currently have no reliable way to noninvasively image coronary artery disease in its early stages, when the disease can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications to lower cholesterol," Abd-Elmoniem said in the announcement.

The researchers evaluated 12 individuals without CAD and 26 with at least one risk factor for CAD by using MRI to measure the thickness of their coronary walls.They used both single-frame MRI imaging and a technique called time-resolved acquisition of phase-sensitive dual inversion-recovery (TRAPD), in which they were able to capture five continuous images with the objective of getting an image free of blurring.

The researchers reported that with TRAPD-MRI they were able to obtain a useable image 90 percent of the time, compared to a success rate of 76 percent for single-frame MRI.

"These results suggest that MRI may be used in the future to screen for individuals at risk for coronary artery disease and may be useful for monitoring the effects of therapies," Abd-Elmoniem said.

For more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the accompanying announcement
- check out the article