Article Abstract

Real-time magnetic resonance imaging of deep venous flow during muscular exercise—preliminary experience

Authors: Arun Antony Joseph, Klaus-Dietmar Merboldt, Dirk Voit, Johannes Dahm, Jens Frahm


Background: The accurate assessment of peripheral venous flow is important for the early diagnosis and treatment of disorders such as deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) which is a major cause of post-thrombotic syndrome or even death due to pulmonary embolism. The aim of this work is to quantitatively determine blood flow in deep veins during rest and muscular exercise using a novel real-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method for velocity-encoded phase-contrast (PC) MRI at high spatiotemporal resolution.
Methods: Real-time PC MRI of eight healthy volunteers and one patient was performed at 3 Tesla (Prisma fit, Siemens, Erlangen, Germany) using a flexible 16-channel receive coil (Variety, NORAS, Hoechberg, Germany). Acquisitions were based on a highly undersampled radial FLASH sequence with image reconstruction by regularized nonlinear inversion at 0.5×0.5×6 mm3 spatial resolution and 100 ms temporal resolution. Flow was assessed in two cross-sections of the lower leg at the level of the calf muscle and knee using a protocol of 10 s rest, 20 s flexion and extension of the foot, and 10 s rest. Quantitative analyses included through-plane flow in the right posterior tibial, right peroneal and popliteal vein (PC maps) as well as signal intensity changes due to flow and muscle movements (corresponding magnitude images).
Results: Real-time PC MRI successfully monitored the dynamics of venous flow at high spatiotemporal resolution and clearly demonstrated increased flow in deep veins in response to flexion and extension of the foot. In normal subjects, the maximum velocity (averaged across vessel lumen) during exercise was 9.4±5.7 cm·s−1 for the right peroneal vein, 8.5±4.6 cm·s−1 for the right posterior tibial vein and 17.8±5.8 cm·s−1 for the popliteal vein. The integrated flow volume per exercise (20 s) was 1.9, 1.6 and 50 mL (mean across subjects) for right peroneal, right posterior tibial and popliteal vein, respectively. A patient with DVT presented with peak flow velocities of only about 2 cm·s−1 during exercise and less than 1 cm·s−1 during rest.
Conclusions: Real-time PC MRI emerges as a new tool for quantifying the dynamics of muscle-induced flow in deep veins. The method provides both signal intensity changes and velocity information for the assessment of blood flow and muscle movements. It now warrants extended clinical trials to patients with suspected thrombosis.


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