Novel cardiac MRI technique quicker, more comfortable for patients

A new technique for conducting cardiac MRI can be completed within 90 seconds, allows patients to breathe during testing and could ultimately improve diagnostic accuracy and reliability.

A team of researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles developed the method, dubbed MR Multitasking, and published a proof-of-concept study April 9 in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

MR Multitasking differs from conventional cardiac MRI in that it embraces movement rather than attempts to avoid it. Patients are typically asked to hold their breath while clinicians time MRI images to match up with specific parts of the heartbeat, but that can prove difficult when patients have arrhythmias or breathing problems.  

"Now we collect all the data throughout the entire test and sort it afterwards," senior investigator Debiao Li, PhD, said in a press release issued by Cedars-Sinai. "We get full control after the test, as opposed to trying to control the body's natural movement during imaging."

Added lead author Anthony G. Christodoulou, PhD: “MR Multitasking acquires image data and then, when the test is completed, the program separates out the overlapping sources of motion and other changes into multiple time dimensions. If a picture is 2D, then a video is 3D because it adds the passage of time. Our videos are 6D because we can play them back four different ways: We can playback cardiac motion, respiratory motion and two different tissue processes that reveal cardiac health."

MR Multitasking was found to be accurate after being tested in 10 cardiac patients and 10 healthy volunteers. Several medical centers in the U.S. and China are now trying out the new imaging technique, according to the press release. And the researchers believe it could also be applied to other diseases, including cancer.  

"People have to breathe no matter what disease they have, so the ability to separate out the motion is important to many medical specialties," Li said.