Background: Myocardial reperfusion is pivotal to the prognosis of patients with acute myocardial infarction. In these patients, coronary flow is generally assessed by angiography and tissue perfusion by tracer scintigraphy. This study was designed to examine whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides information on myocardial perfusion and damage beyond that supplied by angiography and thallium scintigraphy after acute myocardial infarction.
Methods and results: Twenty-two patients with recent myocardial infarction had ECG, echocardiography, coronary angiography, and fast contrast-enhanced MRI. Twelve patients also had exercise thallium scintigraphy. Time-intensity curves obtained from infarcted and noninfarcted regions were correlated with coronary anatomy and left ventricular function. Two perfusion patterns were observed in infarcted regions by comparison with the normal myocardial pattern. All patients but 1 had persistent myocardial hyperenhancement within the infarcted region up to 10 minutes after contrast. In 10 patients, this hyperenhanced region surrounded a subendocardial area of decreased signal at the center of the infarcted region associated with coronary occlusion at angiography, Q waves on ECG, and greater regional dysfunction by echocardiography. Moreover, the extent and location of the MRI abnormalities correlated well with the extent and location of the fixed single-photon emission computed tomography thallium defects.
Conclusions: Large human infarcts, associated with prolonged obstruction of the infarct-related artery, are characterized by central dark zones surrounded by hyperenhanced regions on MRI. Conversely, reperfused infarcts with less regional dysfunction have uniform signal hyperenhancement. The MRI hyperenhanced segment correlates well with the fixed scintigraphic defect in patients with acute myocardial infarction.