Review of MRI-based measurements of pulse wave velocity: a biomarker of arterial stiffness
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the Western world. In the early development of atherosclerosis, vessel walls remodel outwardly such that the vessel luminal diameter is minimally affected by early plaque development. Only in the late stages of the disease does the vessel lumen begin to narrow—leading to stenoses. As a result, angiographic techniques are not useful for diagnosing early atherosclerosis. Given the absence of stenoses in the early stages of atherosclerosis, CVD remains subclinical for decades. Thus, methods of diagnosing atherosclerosis early in the disease process are needed so that affected patients can receive the necessary interventions to prevent further disease progression. Pulse wave velocity (PWV) is a biomarker directly related to vessel stiffness that has the potential to provide information on early atherosclerotic disease burden. A number of clinical methods are available for evaluating global PWV, including applanation tonometry and ultrasound. However, these methods only provide a gross global measurement of PWV—from the carotid to femoral arteries—and may mitigate regional stiffness within the vasculature. Additionally, the distance measurements used in the PWV calculation with these methods can be highly inaccurate. Faster and more robust magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences have facilitated increased interest in MRI-based PWV measurements. This review provides an overview of the state-of-the-art in MRI-based PWV measurements. In addition, both gold standard and clinical standard methods of computing PWV are discussed.