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Noninvasive assessment of coronary vasodilation using cardiovascular magnetic resonance in patients at high risk for coronary artery disease

Patricia K Nguyen1, Craig Meyer2, Jan Engvall3, Phillip Yang1 and Michael V McConnell14*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Virginia, USA

3 Department of Clinical Physiology, Linköping Heart Center, Linköping, Sweden

4 Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

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Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance 2008, 10:28  doi:10.1186/1532-429X-10-28

Published: 30 May 2008



Impaired coronary vasodilation to both endothelial-dependent and endothelial-independent stimuli have been associated with atherosclerosis. Direct measurement of coronary vasodilation using x-ray angiography or intravascular ultrasound is invasive and, thus, not appropriate for asymptomatic patients or for serial follow-up. In this study, high-resolution coronary cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) was used to investigate the vasodilatory response to nitroglycerine (NTG) of asymptomatic patients at high risk for CAD.


A total of 46 asymptomatic subjects were studied: 13 high-risk patients [8 with diabetes mellitus (DM), 5 with end stage renal disease (ESRD)] and 33 age-matched controls. Long-axis and cross-sectional coronary artery images were acquired pre- and 5 minutes post-sublingual NTG using a sub-mm-resolution multi-slice spiral coronary CMR sequence. Coronary cross sectional area (CSA) was measured on pre- and post-NTG images and % coronary vasodilation was calculated.


Patients with DM and ESRD had impaired coronary vasodilation to NTG compared to age-matched controls (17.8 ± 7.3% vs. 25.6 ± 7.1%, p = 0.002). This remained significant for ESRD patients alone (14.8 ± 7.7% vs. 25.6 ± 7.1%; p = 0.003) and for DM patients alone (19.8 ± 6.3% vs. 25.6 ± 7.1%; p = 0.049), with a non-significant trend toward greater impairment in the ESRD vs. DM patients (14.8 ± 7.7% vs. 19.8 ± 6.3%; p = 0.23).


Noninvasive coronary CMR demonstrates impairment of coronary vasodilation to NTG in high-risk patients with DM and ESRD. This may provide a functional indicator of subclinical atherosclerosis and warrants clinical follow up to determine prognostic significance.