New imaging technique can predict common congenital heart abnormality

Published on February 12, 2014 at 1:04 AM · No Comments

A new imaging technique for measuring blood flow in the heart and vessels can diagnose a common congenital heart abnormality, bicuspid aortic valve, and may lead to better prediction of complications.

A Northwestern Medicine team reported the finding in the journal Circulation. In the study, the authors demonstrated for the first time a previously unknown relationship between heart valve abnormalities, blood flow changes in the heart and aortic disease. They showed that blood flow changes were driven by specific types of abnormal aortic valves, and they were able to directly associate blood flow patterns with aortic diseases.

"Blood flow in patients with bicuspid aortic valves was significantly different compared to that in patients with normal valves," said senior author Michael Markl, associate professor of radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We now have direct evidence that bicuspid valves induce changes in blood flow and that the type of flow abnormality may contribute to the development of different expressions of heart disease in these patients."

Bicuspid aortic valve is a heart condition in which the aortic valve only has two leaflets, instead of the normal three. It affects approximately one to two of every 100 Americans and is the most common congenital cardiovascular abnormality. Despite the absence of symptoms, the condition can lead to significant and potentially life-threatening complications, including enlargement of the blood vessel (aneurysm) and rupture. However, it is not known which patients are at the highest risk for complications and whether the condition's origin is genetic or related to changes in blood flow.

The 4D flow MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) used in the study has the potential for better predictive ability.

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