Pulmonary embolism: comparison of angiography with spiral computed tomography, magnetic resonance angiography, and real-time magnetic resonance imaging

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2003 Mar 1;167(5):729-34. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200208-899OC. Epub 2002 Nov 21.


In the last decade, spiral computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) angiography (MRA) have become a viable alternative to conventional angiography in the diagnosis of acute pulmonary embolism. However, patients with dyspnea are often unable to hold their breath for a longer time and thus image degradation is frequently observed. Consequently, an imaging sequence that allows free breathing is desirable. The aim of this animal study was to compare contrast-enhanced spiral CT, MRA and a real-time MR sequence, the latter without breath-hold, with pulmonary angiography as reference gold standard. Nine pigs with artificially induced pulmonary embolism underwent this multimodality comparison. All images were independently evaluated for the presence of pulmonary emboli by two reviewers. Forty-three filling defects were detected by conventional angiography on lobar and segmental levels. Sensitivity of CT images was 72.1 and 69.8% for Readers 1 and 2, respectively, and sensitivity of MRA images was 79.1 and 81.4%. With real-time MR imaging, however, the detection rate was 97.7% for both readers. We conclude that, under experimental conditions, real-time MR imaging without the use of radiation or iodinated contrast material is comparable with angiography in the detection of pulmonary emboli.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Observer Variation
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Respiration
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Swine
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed*