Objective: The aim was to analyse the relationship between magnetic resonance (MR) imaging parameters and myocardial water content early after coronary occlusion with or without reperfusion.
Methods: 21 pigs were used. After 78 min of coronary occlusion (n = 7) or 48 min of coronary occlusion and 30 min of reperfusion (n = 14) the heart was excised. In seven animals in the reperfusion protocol the area at risk was perfused for 5 min with an anoxic buffer, starting 5 min after coronary occlusion. Serial T2 weighted and density weighted images of the heart were obtained from apex to base, by using a 1.5 tesla magnetic resonance imager. Water content was measured in samples from control and at-risk myocardium and relaxation parameters were measured in corresponding areas of the magnetic resonance images.
Results: Water content was 399(SEM 2) ml x 100 g-1 dry tissue in control myocardium, 427(8) in ischaemic myocardium, and 511(8) in reperfused myocardium (p < 0.001). Reperfused myocardium that had received intracoronary infusion contained less water than myocardium that did not: 498(9) v 534(4) ml x 100 g-1 (p = 0.003). T2 relaxation time and T2 weighted signal intensity in the different sampling sites of magnetic resonance images correlated well with water content in the corresponding myocardial samples (r = 0.76 and r = 0.83) and with the relative volume of extracellular space, as calculated by quantitative histology (r = 0.58 and r = 0.59, p < 0.001). The increase in T2 weighted signal intensity in the area at risk with respect to control myocardium allowed differentiation between ischaemic and reperfused myocardium [9(8)% v 63(3)% respectively]. The area at risk measured by MR imaging correlated very well with that determined at pathology by the fluorescein method (r = 0.92).
Conclusions: Magnetic resonance imaging allows evaluation of myocardial oedema associated with acute coronary occlusion and reperfusion, and analysis of its spatial distribution. Changes in myocardial water content occurring early during acute myocardial infarction allow quantification of the area at risk and detection of reperfusion by magnetic resonance imaging.