Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging may be used to visualize post-ablation atrial scar (PAAS), and three-dimensional late gadolinium enhancement (3D LGE) is the most widely employed technique for imaging of chronic scar. Detection of PAAS provides a unique non-invasive insight into the effects of the ablation and may help guide further ablation procedures. However, there is evidence that PAAS is often not detected by CMR, implying a significant sensitivity problem, and imaging parameters vary between leading centres. Therefore, there is a need to establish the optimal imaging parameters to detect PAAS.
Forty subjects undergoing their first pulmonary vein isolation procedure for AF had detailed CMR assessment of atrial scar: one scan pre-ablation, and two scans post-ablation at 3 months (separated by 48 h). Each scan session included ECG- and respiratory-navigated 3D LGE acquisition at 10, 20 and 30 min post injection of a gadolinium-based contrast agent (GBCA). The first post-procedural scan was performed on a 1.5 T scanner with standard acquisition parameters, including double dose (0.2 mmol/kg) Gadovist and 4 mm slice thickness. Ten patients subsequently underwent identical scan as controls, and the other 30 underwent imaging with a reduced, single, dose GBCA (n = 10), half slice thickness (n = 10) or on a 3 T scanner (n = 10). Apparent signal-to-noise (aSNR), contrast-to-noise (aCNR) and imaging quality (Likert Scale, 3 independent observers) were assessed. PAAS location and area (%PAAS scar) were assessed following manual segmentation. Atrial shells with standardised %PAAS at each timepoint were then compared to ablation lesion locations to assess quality of scar delineation.
A total of 271 3D acquisitions (out of maximum 280, 96.7%) were acquired. Likert scale of imaging quality had high interobserver and intraobserver intraclass correlation coefficients (0.89 and 0.96 respectively), and showed lower overall imaging quality on 3 T and at half-slice thickness. aCNR, and quality of scar delineation increased significantly with time. aCNR was higher with reduced, single, dose of GBCA (p = 0.005).
3D LGE CMR atrial scar imaging, as assessed qualitatively and quantitatively, improves with time from GBCA administration, with some indices continuing to improve from 20 to 30 min. Imaging should be performed at least 20 min post-GBCA injection, and a single dose of contrast should be considered.