Validation of thoracic aortic dimensions on ECG-triggered SSFP as alternative to contrast-enhanced MRA

G. J.H. Snel*, L. M. Hernandez, R. H.J.A. Slart, C. T. Nguyen, D. E. Sosnovik, V. M. van Deursen, R. A.J.O. Dierckx, B. K. Velthuis, R. J.H. Borra, N. H.J. Prakken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objectives: Assessment of thoracic aortic dimensions with non-ECG-triggered contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography (CE-MRA) is accompanied with motion artefacts and requires gadolinium. To avoid both motion artefacts and gadolinium administration, we evaluated the similarity and reproducibility of dimensions measured on ECG-triggered, balanced steady-state free precession (SSFP) MRA as alternative to CE-MRA. Methods: All patients, with varying medical conditions, referred for thoracic aortic examination between September 2016 and March 2018, who underwent non-ECG-triggered CE-MRA and SSFP-MRA (1.5 T) were retrospectively included (n = 30). Aortic dimensions were measured after double-oblique multiplanar reconstruction by two observers at nine landmarks predefined by literature guidelines. Image quality was scored at the sinus of Valsalva, mid-ascending aorta and mid-descending aorta by semi-automatically assessing the vessel sharpness. Results: Aortic dimensions showed high agreement between non-ECG-triggered CE-MRA and SSFP-MRA (r = 0.99, p < 0.05) without overestimation or underestimation of aortic dimensions in SSFP-MRA (mean difference, 0.1 mm; limits of agreement, − 1.9 mm and 1.9 mm). Intra- and inter-observer variabilities were significantly smaller with SSFP-MRA for the sinus of Valsalva and sinotubular junction. Image quality of the sinus of Valsalva was significantly better with SSFP-MRA, as fewer images were of impaired quality (3/30) than in CE-MRA (21/30). Reproducibility of dimensions was significantly better in images scored as good quality compared to impaired quality in both sequences. Conclusions: Thoracic aortic dimensions measured on SSFP-MRA and non-ECG-triggered CE-MRA were similar. As expected, SSFP-MRA showed better reproducibility close to the aortic root because of lesser motion artefacts, making it a feasible non-contrast imaging alternative. Key Points: • SSFP-MRA provides similar dimensions as non-ECG-triggered CE-MRA. • Intra- and inter-observer reproducibilities improve for the sinus of Valsalva and sinotubular junction with SSFP-MRA. • ECG-triggered SSFP-MRA shows better image quality for landmarks close to the aortic root in the absence of cardiac motion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5794-5804
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean radiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Cardiac-gated imaging techniques
  • Contrast media
  • Magnetic resonance angiography
  • Reproducibility of results
  • Thoracic aorta


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