Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is an MRI technique that can be used to map cardiomyocyte tracts and estimate local cardiomyocyte and sheetlet orientation within the heart. DTI measures diffusion distances of water molecules within the myocardium, where water diffusion generally occurs more freely along the long axis of cardiomyocytes and within the extracellular matrix, but is restricted by cell membranes such that transverse diffusion is limited. DTI can be undertaken in fixed hearts and it allows the three-dimensional mapping of the cardiac microarchitecture, including cardiomyocyte organization, within the whole heart. The objective of this study was to use DTI to compare the cardiac microarchitecture and cardiomyocyte organization in archived fixed left ventricles of lambs that were born either preterm (n = 5) or at term (n = 7), at a postnatal timepoint equivalent to about 6 years of age in children. Although the findings support the feasibility of retrospective DTI scanning of fixed hearts, several hearts were excluded from DTI analysis because of poor scan quality, such as ghosting artifacts. The preliminary findings from viable DTI scans (n = 3/group) suggest that the extracellular compartment is altered and that there is an immature microstructural phenotype early in postnatal life in the LV of lambs born preterm. Our findings support a potential time-efficient imaging role for DTI in detecting abnormal changes in the microstructure of fixed hearts of former-preterm neonates, although further investigation into factors that affect scan quality is required.
- cardiac remodeling
- cardiovascular magnetic resonance
- diffusion tensor imaging
- left ventricle
- preterm birth