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Recent developments in hardware and software have increased the diagnostic capabilities of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electron beam computed tomography (EBT) to visualise the cardiac anatomy, including the coronary arteries. Visualisation of the heart puts any diagnostic technique to the test, because the continuous cardiac motion distorts the image and high temporal resolution is required to “freeze” the heart to produce a sharp image.
In particular, non-invasive visualisation of the coronary arteries is difficult because of the small size of the coronary arteries (2–5 mm in diameter), the complex, tortuous course making it often impossible to “catch” the coronary artery in one slice (tomogram), and the cardiac and respiratory motion causing loss of sharpness or motion artefacts.
In this article image acquisition and processing techniques of MRI and EBT will be presented. The clinical role of both techniques in cardiac imaging will be discussed, together with a brief introduction of the technical aspects.
Magnetic resonance imaging: physics and technique
MRI has excellent temporal and spatial resolution and is capable of visualising the cardiac anatomy. The advantages of MRI are its ability to acquire images non-invasively, in the absence of ionising radiation, and in any tomographic plane without interference from surrounding bone or soft tissues. The basic concepts and clinical role of MRI can be found in excellent recent review articles.1-5 In this paper we limit ourselves to a brief summary of MRI concepts.
The MRI scanner consists of a magnet, gradient coils, and a body coil. The large magnet produces a strong homogeneous magnetic field, is cylindrical, and for imaging the patient is placed within the bore of the magnet. Gradient coils vary the strength of the magnetic field from one point to another and they determine the spatial information of the emitted MR signal necessary for the construction of the image. The bodycoil acts …