Cardiovascular flow measurement with phase-contrast MR imaging: basic facts and implementation

Radiographics. 2002 May-Jun;22(3):651-71. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.22.3.g02ma11651.


Phase-contrast magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is a well-known but undervalued method of obtaining quantitative information on blood flow. Applications of this technique in cardiovascular MR imaging are expanding. According to the sequences available, phase-contrast measurement can be performed in a breath hold or during normal respiration. Prospective as well as retrospective gating techniques can be used. Common errors in phase-contrast imaging include mismatched encoding velocity, deviation of the imaging plane, inadequate temporal resolution, inadequate spatial resolution, accelerated flow and spatial misregistration, and phase offset errors. Flow measurements are most precise if the imaging plane is perpendicular to the vessel of interest and flow encoding is set to through-plane flow. The sequence should be repeated at least once, with a high encoding velocity used initially. If peak velocity has to be estimated, flow measurement is repeated with an adapted encoding velocity. The overall error of a phase-contrast flow measurement comprises errors during prescription as well as errors that occur during image analysis of the flow data. With phase-contrast imaging, the overall error in flow measurement can be reduced to less than 10%, an acceptable level of error for routine clinical use.

MeSH terms

  • Aorta / physiology
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology*
  • Coronary Circulation / physiology*
  • Heart / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Pulmonary Artery / physiology
  • Venae Cavae / physiology