Background: Extracellular volume fraction (ECV) quantification with cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) T1 mapping is a powerful tool for the characterization of focal or diffuse myocardial fibrosis. However, it is technically challenging to acquire high-quality T1 and ECV maps in small animals for preclinical research because of high heart rates and high respiration rates. In this work, we developed an electrocardiogram (ECG)-less, free-breathing ECV mapping method using motion-resolved CMR Multitasking on a 9.4 T small animal CMR system. The feasibility of characterizing diffuse myocardial fibrosis was tested in a rat heart failure model with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).
Methods: High-salt fed rats diagnosed with HFpEF (n = 9) and control rats (n = 9) were imaged with the proposed ECV Multitasking technique. A 25-min exam, including two 4-min T1 Multitasking scans before and after gadolinium injection, were performed on each rat. It allows a cardiac temporal resolution of 20 ms for a heart rate of ~ 300 bpm. Myocardial ECV was calculated from the hematocrit (HCT) and fitted T1 values of the myocardium and the blood pool. Masson's trichrome stain was used to measure the extent of fibrosis. Welch's t-test was performed between control and HFpEF groups.
Results: ECV was significantly higher in the HFpEF group (22.4% ± 2.5% vs. 18.0% ± 2.1%, P = 0.0010). A moderate correlation between the ECV and the extent of fibrosis was found (R = 0.59, P = 0.0098).
Conclusions: Motion-resolved ECV Multitasking CMR can quantify ECV in the rat myocardium at high heart rates without ECG triggering or respiratory gating. Elevated ECV found in the HFpEF group is consistent with previous human studies and well correlated with histological data. This technique has the potential to be a viable imaging tool for myocardial tissue characterization in small animal models.
Keywords: Cardiovascular MR; Extracellular volume fraction; HFpEF; T1 mapping.