Anatomically correct assessment of the orientation of the cardiomyocytes using diffusion tensor imaging

NMR Biomed. 2020 Mar;33(3):e4205. doi: 10.1002/nbm.4205. Epub 2019 Dec 12.


Diffusion tensor imaging has been used for assessing the orientation of cardiac myocytes for decades. Striking methodological differences exist between studies when quantifying these orientations. This limits the comparability between studies, and impedes collaboration and the drawing of appropriate physiological conclusions. We have sought to elucidate these differences, permitting us to propose a standardised "tool set" that might better establish consensus in future studies. We fixed hearts from seven 25 kg pigs in formalin, and scanned them using diffusion tensor imaging. Using various angle definitions as found in literature, we assessed the orientations of cardiomyocytes, comparing them in terms of helical and intrusion angles, along with the orientation of their aggregations. The difference between assessment of the helical angle with and without relation to the epicardial curvature was 25.2° (SD: 7.9) at the base, 5.8° (1.9) at the equatorial level, and 28.0° (7.0) at the apex, ANOVA P = 0.001. In comparable fashion, the intrusion angle differed by 25.9° (12.9), 7.6° (0.98) and 17.5° (4.7), P = 0.01, and the angle of the aggregates (E3-angle) differed by 25.0° (13.5) at the base, 9.4° (1.7) at the equator, and 23.1° (6.2) apically, P = 0.003. When assessing 14 definitions used in literature to calculate the orientation of aggregates, only 4 rendered identical results. The findings show that any attempt to use projection of eigenvectors introduces considerable bias. The epicardial curvature of the ventricular cone needs to be taken into account when seeking to provide accurate quantification of the orientation of the aggregated cardiomyocytes, especially in the apical and basal regions. This means that projection of eigenvectors should be avoided prior to quantifying myocyte orientation, especially when assessing radial orientation. Based on our results, we suggest appropriate methods for valid assessment of myocyte orientation using diffusion tensor imaging.

Keywords: diffusion tensor imaging; heart; methodology; myocardium; myocyte orientation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Female
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology*
  • Pericardium / anatomy & histology
  • Swine