T2* imaging of the heart: methods, applications, and outcomes

Top Magn Reson Imaging. 2014 Feb;23(1):13-20. doi: 10.1097/RMR.0000000000000011.


This review describes and discusses the rationale, technique, applications, and impact of cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) T2* imaging, principally in the assessment of iron loading within the heart, and highlights how this robust imaging strategy has transformed disease outcome.Until recently, no simple noninvasive measurement was available to reliably indicate severe cardiac iron loading before the development of overt cardiac dysfunction or heart failure. Consequently, the majority of patients with transfusion-dependent anemias, such as β-thalassemia major, died prematurely of cardiovascular complications of severe iron overload.The magnetic properties of particulate iron disrupt magnetic field homogeneity in the CMR environment and consequently influence the CMR parameter T2*, which describes signal decay relating to both field inhomogeneity and loss of spin coherence. There is a direct relationship between T2* and myocardial iron concentration, enabling this to be used to identify and quantify myocardial iron load. Single breath-hold gradient-echo sequences in which a single midventricular short-axis myocardial slice is acquired at multiple echo times enables a myocardial T2* value to be measured from the rate of exponential decay. The application of T2* CMR to assessing cardiac iron loading is rapid, reproducible, extensively validated, and now widely performed. Data have highlighted the profound predictive power of this imaging technique and moreover its ability to inform management strategies such that, over a relatively short duration, outcome has been dramatically improved, and the disease course in β-thalassemia major transformed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis*
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Heart Failure / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Overload / complications
  • Iron Overload / diagnosis*
  • Iron Overload / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods


  • Biomarkers
  • Iron