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Optimisation of a high-resolution whole-body MR angiography protocol with parallel imaging and biphasic administration of a single bolus of Gd-BOPTA: preliminary experience in the systemic evaluation of atherosclerotic burden in patients referred for endovascular procedures.

PURPOSE: This study was performed to validate a high-resolution whole-body magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) protocol with parallel imaging and biphasic administration of a single bolus of contrast agent in the preliminary assessment of systemic atherosclerotic burden in patients referred for endovascular procedures.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty patients referred for endovascular treatment of atherosclerotic disease of the carotid arteries (n=23), peripheral vessels (n=14) or aorta (n=3) on the basis of previous clinical and diagnostic examinations underwent high-resolution whole-body MRA at 1.5 T with 3D spoiled gradient recalled echo (GRE) sequences, featuring parallel imaging acquisition technique with x2 acceleration factor. Sixty-eight surface coil elements and a four-station imaging protocol were employed. Biphasic intravenous administration of a paramagnetic contrast agent [gadolinium benzyloxyproprionic-tetraacetic acid (Gd-BOPTA)] was performed with the following protocol: 10 ml at a speed of 1 ml/s followed by further 10 ml at a speed of 0.5 ml/s. For image analysis, the arterial system was divided into 42 segments for evaluation. The presence or absence of atherosclerotic lesions was evaluated by two observers in consensus; segments were classified as having clinically significant disease (>or=50% stenosis or an aneurysmal dilatation) or no significant disease (<50% stenosis). The presence of stenoocclusive disease, determined at all segments, was compared with findings on digital subtraction angiography (DSA), which were interpreted by a third independent reader. Sensitivity, specificity and concordance of whole-body MRA findings with DSA were calculated, and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was performed for all vascular territories.

RESULTS: A total of 1,680 arterial segments was evaluated; 138 (8.3%) were affected by atherosclerotic alterations. Carotid lesions were confirmed in 23 patients (34 segments), involvement of peripheral vessels in 14 (57 segments) and abdominal aneurysms in three. Sensitivity and specificity of whole-body MRA were, respectively, 95%-97% for head and neck vessels, 100%-100% for thoracoabdominal vessels, 98%-97% for thigh vessels and 84%-88% for calf vessels; concordance with the DSA findings was significant (p<0.05). Subclinical atherosclerotic lesions were evidenced in 25 patients, involving carotid arteries (12 segments), peripheral vessels (21 segments) and abdominal aorta (one segment). All these lesions were confirmed by a second modality, and ten of these patients required further care.

CONCLUSIONS: High-resolution whole-body MRA with Gd-BOPTA may be considered a reliable modality for imaging systemic atherosclerosis in candidates for endovascular procedures. The subclinical detection of the total atherosclerotic burden has potential implications for secondary care in this population.

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