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Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2001 Sep-Oct;44(2):81-100.

Detection and quantification of coronary stenosis severity with myocardial contrast echocardiography.

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Cardiac Imaging Center and Cardiovascular Division, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


The development of microbubble contrast agents and new imaging modalities now allows the assessment of myocardial perfusion during echocardiography. These microbubbles are excellent tracers of red blood cell kinetics. Apart from providing a spatial assessment of myocardial perfusion, myocardial contrast echocardiography (MCE) can also be used to quantify the 2 specific components of myocardial blood flow-flow velocity and myocardial blood volume. The method to quantify myocardial blood flow velocity is based on rapid destruction of microbubbles by ultrasound, and subsequent assessment of the rate of replenishment of microbubbles into the myocardial microcirculation within the ultrasound beam elevation. Assessment of steady state myocardial video intensity (VI) provides a measure of myocardial or capillary blood volume. Perfusion defects that develop distal to a stenosis during hyperemia are therefore due to capillary derecruitment. We have shown that the degree of derecruitment (and therefore the severity of a perfusion defect) is proportional to stenosis severity. Because the capillary bed also provides the greatest resistance to hyperemic flow, decreases in capillary blood volume distal to a stenosis during hyperemia result in increases in microvascular resistance, which is the mechanism underlying the progressive decrease in flow reserve in the presence of a stenosis. Consequently, both the severity of a perfusion defect and quantification of abnormal myocardial blood flow reserve on MCE can be used to determine stenosis severity. As imaging methods with MCE continue to be refined, the optimal imaging algorithms for clinical practice still need to be determined. MCE, however, holds promise as a noninvasive, instantaneous, on-line method for the detection and quantification of coronary artery disease.

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