MRI helps researchers find disparities in different forms of heart failure

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have created a way to measure oxygen consumption in the legs of heart failure patients using MRI, a finding that sheds light on the intricacies of different forms of heart failure.

The study, published in the journal PloS One, was led by Mark Haykowksy, UT-Arlington’s Mortiz Chair of Gerontology Nursing Research.

The researchers measured leg blood flow and oxygen extraction and consumption in 10 older heart failure patients with either big, dilated hearts, or big, still hearts, two heart conditions that are both associated with higher mortality rates.

Instead of measuring the factors with a catheter procedure, they developed a technique to measure leg blood flow and oxygen extraction and consumption using MRI. They measured both groups of people with the two heart conditions for four minutes following constant knee exercise.

"We wanted to see if these two groups differ in their leg oxygen consumption in the recovery period after exercise, and if so, why this occurred," said Haykowsky in a statement.

Results suggested that there was difference between the two groups, showing that leg blood flow and oxygen uptake recovery took longer in patients with dilated hearts.

"This study is an important breakthrough because we were able to distinguish between different groups of heart failure patients," Haykowsky said. "This could have important implications for exercise rehabilitation for heart failure patients. If we're able to differentiate between these heart failure groups then in the future we could target therapies aimed at increasing blood flow to their muscles and improve their exercise capacity. Fatigue and exercise intolerance are cardinal features in heart failure."