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Cardiovascular magnetic resonance in the diagnosis of acute heart transplant rejection: a review

Author(s): Butler Craig | Thompson Richard | Haykowsky Mark | Toma Mustafa | Paterson Ian

Journal: Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance
ISSN 1097-6647

Volume: 11;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 7;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Abstract Background Screening for organ rejection is a critical component of care for patients who have undergone heart transplantation. Endomyocardial biopsy is the gold standard screening tool, but non-invasive alternatives are needed. Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) is well suited to provide an alternative to biopsy because of its ability to quantify ventricular function, morphology, and characterize myocardial tissue. CMR is not widely used to screen for heart transplant rejection, despite many trials supporting its use for this indication. This review summarizes the different CMR sequences that can detect heart transplant rejection as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their application. Results T2 quantification by spin echo techniques has been criticized for poor reproducibility, but multiple studies show its utility in screening for rejection. Human and animal data estimate that T2 quantification can diagnose rejection with sensitivities and specificities near 90%. There is also a suggestion that T2 quantification can predict rejection episodes in patients with normal endomyocardial biopsies. T1 quantification has also shown association with biopsy proven rejection in a small number of trials. T1 weighted gadolinium early enhancement appeared promising in animal data, but has had conflicting results in human trials. Late gadolinium enhancement in the diagnosis of rejection has not been evaluated. CMR derived measures of ventricular morphology and systolic function have insufficient sensitivity to diagnose mild to moderate rejection. CMR derived diastolic function can demonstrate abnormalities in allografts compared to native human hearts, but its ability to diagnose rejection has not yet been tested. There is promising animal data on the ability of iron oxide contrast agents to illustrate the changes in vascular permeability and macrophage accumulation seen in rejection. Despite good safety data, these contrast agents have not been tested in the human heart transplant population. Conclusion T2 quantification has demonstrated the best correlation to biopsy proven heart transplant rejection. Further studies evaluating diastolic function, late gadolinium enhancement, and iron oxide contrast agents to diagnose rejection are needed. Future studies should focus on combining multiple CMR measures into a transplant rejection scoring system which would improve sensitivity and possibly reduce, if not eliminate, the need for endomyocardial biopsy.
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