Diagnosing cardiovascular disease: will the catheter soon be history?


n° 390 - February 2001


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may soon replace catheterism, a traumatic and invasive method for the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, whereby a catheter is inserted into the arteries, all the way up to the heart, to measure the blood pressure. Thanks to MRI, the same information will soon be obtained in a non invasive manner. As yet, MRI cannot measure actual pressure, only its variations in space and time. This method has been successfully tested on patients, and the MRI data corroborated results obtained through catheterism.
Images of blood pressure gradients will make it possible not only to visualize the physiology of blood circulation, but also cardiac valve or artery diseases. Time variations of blood pressure is also an indication of the heart's ability to pump out the blood it contains.
The Research Unit on Medical Magnetic Resonance is currently carrying out comparative studies of catheterism and MRI, which could also be successfully applied to measure pulmonary hypertension, a disease traditionally monitored through frequent catheterisms.
Methodological research is under way to find a way of directly measuring blood pressure since knowing the time and space variations in different points throughout the cardiovascular system makes it possible to calculate the pressure in each point at each moment, on the basis of the pressure observed at one point in space and time.

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