Recently, dynamic MRI of hyperpolarized (3)He during inhalation revealed an alternation of the image intensity between left and right lungs with a cardiac origin (Sun Y, Butler JP, Ferrigno M, Albert MS, Loring SH. Respir Physiol Neurobiol 185: 468-471, 2013). This effect is investigated further using dynamic and phase-contrast flow MRI with inhaled (3)He during slow inhalations (flow rate ∼100 ml/s) to elucidate airflow dynamics in the main lobes in six healthy subjects. The ventilation MR signal and gas inflow in the left lower lobe (LLL) of the lungs were found to oscillate clearly at the cardiac frequency in all subjects, whereas the MR signals in the other parts of the lungs had a similar oscillatory behavior but were smaller in magnitude and in anti-phase to the signal in the left lower lung. The airflow in the main bronchi showed periodic oscillations at the frequency of the cardiac cycle. In four of the subjects, backflows were observed for a short period of time of the cardiac cycle, demonstrating a pendelluft effect at the carina bifurcation between the left and right lungs. Additional (1)H structural MR images of the lung volume and synchronized ECG recording revealed that maximum inspiratory flow rates in the LLL of the lungs occurred during systole when the corresponding left lung volume increased, whereas the opposite effect was observed during diastole, with gas flow redirected to the other parts of the lung. In conclusion, cardiogenic flow oscillations have a significant effect on regional gas flow and distribution within the lungs.
Keywords: MRI; cardiogenic oscillations; flow; hyperpolarized gases; lungs.
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