Introduction. We investigated the diagnostic accuracy of gadolinium-enhanced 3D MRA in the assessment of thoracic aortic diseases. Material and methods. Thirty-eight patients with diagnosed or suspected conditions of thoracic aorta were examined with contrast-enhanced MRA. All the examinations were performed with a 1.5 T superconductive magnet acquiring breath-hold 3D fast Gradient-Echo (GE) sequences (TR = 5.9 ms; TE = 1.2 ms; FA = 45°; FOV = 48 cm; thickness = 2-2.5 mm; locs = 30-32; TA = 22-24 s; MA = 512) on the coronal plane. The contrast agent was injected bolus after a bolus-test to evaluate circulation time. Results. Three-dimensional gadolinium-enhanced MRA permitted to correctly diagnose aneurysm in 18 patients, dissection in 13 patients and coarctation in 3 patients. In the former the size and extent of the aneurysmal lumen and its relationship to aortic side branches was demonstrated. As for dissections we evaluated the following parameters: 1) type; 2) presence of intimai flap; 3) thrombosis of the false lumen; 4) dilatation of the aorta; 5) assessment of great vessel origins. MRA data were correlated with those of biplane transesophageal echocardiography, conventional MRI and spiral CT. In the three patients with aortic coarctation the site of coarctation was correctly identified, the degree of aortic narrowing evaluated and the collateral vessels demonstrated. Conclusions. In our opinion contrast-enhanced three-dimensional MR angiography should be the screening technique of choice in the evaluation of thoracic aorta thanks to its low invasiveness, short acquisition time, large field of view and morphologic resolution. ECG gating is not needed. Limitations are found in the study of wall and periaortic region which are better evaluated with conventional MR imaging.
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