Novel Approaches to Imaging the Pulmonary Vasculature and Right Heart

Circ Res. 2022 Apr 29;130(9):1445-1465. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.121.319990. Epub 2022 Apr 28.


There is an increased appreciation for the importance of the right heart and pulmonary circulation in several disease states across the spectrum of pulmonary hypertension and left heart failure. However, assessment of the structure and function of the right heart and pulmonary circulation can be challenging, due to the complex geometry of the right ventricle, comorbid pulmonary airways and parenchymal disease, and the overlap of hemodynamic abnormalities with left heart failure. Several new and evolving imaging modalities interrogate the right heart and pulmonary circulation with greater diagnostic precision. Echocardiographic approaches such as speckle-tracking and 3-dimensional imaging provide detailed assessments of regional systolic and diastolic function and volumetric assessments. Magnetic resonance approaches can provide high-resolution views of cardiac structure/function, tissue characterization, and perfusion through the pulmonary vasculature. Molecular imaging with positron emission tomography allows an assessment of specific pathobiologically relevant targets in the right heart and pulmonary circulation. Machine learning analysis of high-resolution computed tomographic lung scans permits quantitative morphometry of the lung circulation without intravenous contrast. Inhaled magnetic resonance imaging probes, such as hyperpolarized 129Xe magnetic resonance imaging, report on pulmonary gas exchange and pulmonary capillary hemodynamics. These approaches provide important information on right ventricular structure and function along with perfusion through the pulmonary circulation. At this time, the majority of these developing technologies have yet to be clinically validated, with few studies demonstrating the utility of these imaging biomarkers for diagnosis or monitoring disease. These technologies hold promise for earlier diagnosis and noninvasive monitoring of right heart failure and pulmonary hypertension that will aid in preclinical studies, enhance patient selection and provide surrogate end points in clinical trials, and ultimately improve bedside care.

Keywords: computed tomography; hemodynamics; magnetic resonance imaging; pulmonary hypertension; pulmonary vasculature; right ventricle; xenon MRI.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Heart Failure* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary*
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Xenon Isotopes


  • Xenon Isotopes
  • Xenon-129