State-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) generates high-resolution images of the cardiovascular system. Conventional MRI techniques provide images in six to ten minutes per tomographic slice. New strategies have substantially improved the speed of imaging. The technology is relatively expensive, and its cost-effectiveness remains to be defined in relation to other effective, less expensive, and noninvasive technologies, such as echocardiography and nuclear medicine. The ultimate role of MRI will depend on several factors, including the development of specific applications such as (1) noninvasive angiography, especially of the coronary arteries; (2) noninvasive, highresolution assessment of regional myocardial blood flow distribution (eg, using paramagnetic contrast agents); (3) characterization of myocardial diseases using proton-relaxation property changes; and (4) evaluation of in vivo myocardial biochemistry. The three-dimensional imaging capability and the ability to image cardiovascular structures without contrast material give MRI a potential advantage over existing noninvasive diagnostic imaging techniques. This report analyzes current applications of MRI to the cardiovascular system and speculates on their future.
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