A team of Oxford University researchers has developed a technique that could improve heart scans for patients, giving more information about the heart than traditional scans and without any injections, making them safer and faster. Currently, stress scans of the heart using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) require patients to be injected with two substances. Adenosine is a medication injected into the patient that causes effects similar to exercise during the scan. Gadolinium - a rare earth heavy metal - is injected as a contrast agent to highlight areas of the heart suffering from decreased blood flow under exercise conditions.
T1 mapping can give clearer, more clinically-useful results compared to traditional MRI scans that require injections of contrast agents. On traditional MRI scans, doctors are judging relative shades of light and dark on a scan, and even the most experienced specialists can disagree on what the image is showing them. T1 maps provide an objective number, which can be coded in colours, and may be less subjective. Additionally, patients with severe kidney failure - who are usually at higher risk for heart disease - cannot clear Gadolinium and often are unable to benefit from a full MRI scan of the heart. T1-maps can potentially solve this problem in the future.'
In physics, T1 is the time constant that describes how quickly atoms return to normal thermodynamic state after being affected by radio waves and strong magnetic fields. Just like measuring body temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, the numbers themselves may not mean much, but any deviation from established normal ranges can suggest disease. In the case of T1 mapping, long T1 times indicate the presence of more water, something found in a number of heart conditions, including areas of the heart suffering from lack of blood supply due to blocked arteries. A T1-map just helps to visualize T1 values across the heart and find the precise location of the problem. It takes around three minutes to map the whole heart, and the values it measures are turned into a colour map, giving doctors an image which is potentially quicker to understand with less subjective interpretation.
Source: Oxford University