Background: Left ventricular noncompaction (LVNC) is a myocardial disorder characterized by excessive left ventricular (LV) trabeculae. Current methods for quantification of LV trabeculae have limitations. The aim of this study is to describe a novel technique for quantifying LV trabeculation using cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) and fractal geometry. Observing that trabeculae appear complex and irregular, we hypothesize that measuring the fractal dimension (FD) of the endocardial border provides a quantitative parameter that can be used to distinguish normal from abnormal trabecular patterns.
Methods: Fractal analysis is a method of quantifying complex geometric patterns in biological structures. The resulting FD is a unitless measure index of how completely the object fills space. FD increases with increased structural complexity. LV FD was measured using a box-counting method on CMR short-axis cine stacks. Three groups were studied: LVNC (defined by Jenni criteria), n=30(age 41±13; men, 16); healthy whites, n=75(age, 46±16; men, 36); healthy blacks, n=30(age, 40±11; men, 15).
Results: In healthy volunteers FD varied in a characteristic pattern from base to apex along the LV. This pattern was altered in LVNC where apical FD were abnormally elevated. In healthy volunteers, blacks had higher FD than whites in the apical third of the LV (maximal apical FD: 1.253±0.005 vs. 1.235±0.004, p<0.01) (mean±s.e.m.). Comparing LVNC with healthy volunteers, maximal apical FD was higher in LVNC (1.392±0.010, p<0.00001). The fractal method was more accurate and reproducible (ICC, 0.97 and 0.96 for intra and inter-observer readings) than two other CMR criteria for LVNC (Petersen and Jacquier).
Conclusions: FD is higher in LVNC patients compared to healthy volunteers and is higher in healthy blacks than in whites. Fractal analysis provides a quantitative measure of trabeculation and has high reproducibility and accuracy for LVNC diagnosis when compared to current CMR criteria.