3D MRI provides improved visualization and detection of aortic arch plaques compared to transesophageal echocardiography

Andreas Harloff, Stefanie Marie Brendecke, Jan Simon, Dawit Assefa, Wolf Wallis, Thomas Helbing, Johannes Weber, Alex Frydrychowicz, Werner Vach, Cornelius Weiller, Michael Markl
Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging: JMRI 2012, 36 (3): 604-11

PURPOSE: To compare 3D magnetic resonance imaging (3D MRI) with transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) for the detection of complex aortic plaques (≥4 mm thick, ulcerated, or containing mobile thrombi).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: In all, 99 consecutive patients with acute cryptogenic stroke and ≥3 mm thick aortic plaques in TEE were prospectively included. 3D MRI comprised T1-weighted bright blood MRI with complete aortic coverage (spatial resolution 1 mm(3) ). Wall thickness and occurrence of complex plaques in ascending aorta (AAo), aortic arch (AA), and descending aorta (DAo) and image quality for each segment was rated for MRI and TEE.

RESULTS: MRI detected more complex plaques than TEE (MRI vs. TEE): AAo 13 vs. 7; AA 37 vs. 11; differences were smaller in the DAo: 101 vs. 70. Image quality was higher for MRI in AAo and AA (P < 0.001) and superior for TEE in DAo (P < 0.001). MRI revealed additional complex plaques in the proximal aorta in 19 of 58 patients (32.8%) categorized as cryptogenic after complete routine diagnostics including TEE.

CONCLUSION: Due to improved visualization of the aorta 3D MRI allows to detect more complex plaques than TEE. This renders 3D MRI particularly valuable for patients with cryptogenic stroke and for trials evaluating optimal treatment in aortic atherosclerosis.

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