Purpose: Our goal was to assess the utility of different imaging directions in volumetric studies of the heart with MRI, in particular to identify the optimal imaging plane for studies of the right ventricle.
Method: We examined 12 sets of human four-chamber cadaveric cardiac casts. Gradient echo MRI was performed in four imaging planes: (a) perpendicular to the right ventricular inflow tract; (b) perpendicular to the right ventricular outflow tract; (c) in the left ventricular short axis view; and (d) in the axial view. The volumes of the right ventricle and other cardiac cavities were determined with the method of discs. The true cast volumes were measured with the water displacement technique. The agreement between true and measured volumes and the repeatability of image analysis were determined using the Bland-Altman method.
Results: There were no statistically significant differences between the measured and true right ventricular volumes irrespective of the imaging plane. The axial plane gave the smallest mean absolute difference from the true right ventricular volume (3.2 +/-2.2 ml) and also the best repeatability of volume analysis (0.2+/-1.6 ml). However, the other imaging planes performed nearly as well, and the differences across the planes were not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Also, in studies of the left ventricle and left and right atrium, the axial view appeared to give the best results, but differences across the imaging planes remained small.
Conclusion: The present studies of human cardiac casts suggest that gradient echo MRI is well applicable to right ventricular volume measurements. Imaging the right ventricle in axial planes covering the entire heart gives good agreement with true right ventricular volumes and excellent analysis reproducibility. However, other imaging directions perform nearly as well, and thus selection of the imaging plane may not be of major importance to the accuracy of cardiac volume measurements with MR.