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Br J Radiol. 2010 Mar;83(987):194-205. doi: 10.1259/bjr/55699491.

Imaging the pericardium: appearances on ECG-gated 64-detector row cardiac computed tomography.

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Department of Clinical Radiology, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth PL6 8DH, UK.


Multidetector row computed tomography (MDCT) with its high spatial and temporal resolution has now become an established and complementary method for cardiac imaging. It can now be used reliably to exclude significant coronary artery disease and delineate complex coronary artery anomalies, and has become a valuable problem-solving tool. Our experience with MDCT imaging suggests that it is clinically useful for imaging the pericardium. It is important to be aware of the normal anatomy of the pericardium and not mistake normal variations for pathology. The pericardial recesses are visible in up to 44% of non-electrocardiogram (ECG)-gated MDCT images. Abnormalities of the pericardium can now be identified with increasing certainty on 64-detector row CT; they may be the key to diagnosis and therefore must not be overlooked. This educational review of the pericardium will cover different imaging techniques, with a significant emphasis on MDCT. We have a large research and clinical experience of ECG-gated cardiac CT and will demonstrate examples of pericardial recesses, their variations and a wide variety of pericardial abnormalities and systemic conditions affecting the pericardium. We give a brief relevant background of the conditions and reinforce the key imaging features. We aim to provide a pictorial demonstration of the wide variety of abnormalities of the pericardium and the pitfalls in the diagnosis of pericardial disease.

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