Philip Araoz, M.D. and Arunark Kolipaka, Ph.D. are lead investigators on on a Mayo Clinic study of a new way to measure heart muscle stiffness, a common side effect after a heart attack and from other diseases. Unlike to all previous forms of testing, Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE) is quick, painless and completely non-invasive.
Dr. Kolipaka describes the technology and shows some of the images it produces:
How it works
Once set up, the scans can be done in less than 5 minutes. A patient is placed in an MRI scanner and a sound speaker is used to send sound waves into the chest. The MRI scanner takes pictures of the sound waves as they pass through the heart muscle. The wavelength of the waves can be used to calculate the stiffness of the heart. This new, non-invasive technique could give clinicians in day-to-day practice information that up until now was out of their reach.
How it could be used
Cardiac MRE could have a huge impact on many diseases, but in particular, it could dramatically change the understanding of Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction (HFPEF). Many people think of heart failure as being a condition where the heart can’t squeeze normally. However, in HFPEF patients, the heart has normal squeeze, but patients still get short of breath and have other symptoms of heart failure.
It is thought that the underlying problem in HFPEF is that the heart is too stiff, but because measuring stiffness is so difficult and invasive, there’s disagreement about how to diagnose and monitor the disease. Little is understood about this disease even though it is very common, accounting for up to 40 percent of heart failure cases and has a very poor prognosis. Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Elastography could be the marker of this disease that researchers follow when developing treatment drugs.