Liver iron quantification by MRI has become routine. Pixelwise (PW) fitting to the iron-mediated signal decay has some advantages but is slower and more vulnerable to noise than region-based techniques. We present a fast, pseudo-pixelwise mapping (PPWM) algorithm.
Materials and methods
The PPWM algorithm divides the entire liver into non-contiguous groups of pixels sorted by rapid relative relaxivity estimates. Pixels within each group of like-relaxivity were binned and fit using a Levenberg-Marquadt algorithm.
The developed algorithm worked about 30 times faster than the traditional PW approach and generated R2* maps qualitatively and quantitatively similar. No systematic difference was observed in median R2* values with a coefficient of variability (CoV) of 2.4%. Intra-observer and inter-observer errors were also under 2.5%. Small systematic differences were observed in the right tail of the R2* distribution resulting in slightly lower mean R2* values (CoV of 4.2%) and moderately lower SD of R2* values for the PPWM algorithm. Moreover, the PPWM provided the best accuracy, giving a lower error of R2* estimates.
The PPWM yielded comparable reproducibility and higher accuracy than the TPWM. The method is suitable for relaxivity maps in other organs and applications.
iron overload assessment; fast R2* mapping; liver
liver iron concentration; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; R2*; decay model
In vivo iron load must be monitored to prevent complications from iron overload diseases such as hemochromatosis or transfusion-dependent anemias. While liver biopsy is the gold standard for determining in vivo iron load, MRI offers a noninvasive approach. MR phantoms have been reported that estimate iron concentration in the liver and mimic relaxation characteristics of in vivo deposits of hemosiderin. None of these phantoms take into account the size distribution of hemosiderin, which varies from patient to patient based on iron load. We synthesized stable and reproducible microsphereferritin conjugates (ferribeads) of different sizes that are easily characterized for several parameters that are necessary for modeling such as iron content and bead fraction. T1s and T2s were measured on a 1.41-T low-resolution NMR spectrometer and followed a size-dependent trend. Ferribeads imaged at 4.7 and 14.1 T showed that signal intensities are dependent on the distribution of ferritin around the bead rather than the iron concentration alone. These particles can be used to study the effects of particle size, ferritin distribution, and bead fraction on proton relaxation and may be of use in mimicking hemosiderin in a phantom for estimating iron concentration.
ferritin; transverse relaxation; MRI
The assessment of myocardial iron using T2* cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) has been validated and calibrated, and is in clinical use. However, there is very limited data assessing the relaxation parameters T1 and T2 for measurement of human myocardial iron.
Twelve hearts were examined from transfusion-dependent patients: 11 with end-stage heart failure, either following death (n = 7) or cardiac transplantation (n = 4), and 1 heart from a patient who died from a stroke with no cardiac iron loading. Ex-vivo R1 and R2 measurements (R1 = 1/T1 and R2 = 1/T2) at 1.5 Tesla were compared with myocardial iron concentration measured using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy.
From a single myocardial slice in formalin which was repeatedly examined, a modest decrease in T2 was observed with time, from mean (±SD) 23.7 ± 0.93 ms at baseline (13 days after death and formalin fixation) to 18.5 ± 1.41 ms at day 566 (p < 0.001). Raw T2 values were therefore adjusted to correct for this fall over time. Myocardial R2 was correlated with iron concentration [Fe] (R2 0.566, p < 0.001), but the correlation was stronger between LnR2 and Ln[Fe] (R2 0.790, p < 0.001). The relation was [Fe] = 5081•(T2)-2.22 between T2 (ms) and myocardial iron (mg/g dry weight). Analysis of T1 proved challenging with a dichotomous distribution of T1, with very short T1 (mean 72.3 ± 25.8 ms) that was independent of iron concentration in all hearts stored in formalin for greater than 12 months. In the remaining hearts stored for <10 weeks prior to scanning, LnR1 and iron concentration were correlated but with marked scatter (R2 0.517, p < 0.001). A linear relationship was present between T1 and T2 in the hearts stored for a short period (R2 0.657, p < 0.001).
Myocardial T2 correlates well with myocardial iron concentration, which raises the possibility that T2 may provide additive information to T2* for patients with myocardial siderosis. However, ex-vivo T1 measurements are less reliable due to the severe chemical effects of formalin on T1 shortening, and therefore T1 calibration may only be practical from in-vivo human studies.
Cardiovascular magnetic resonance; Heart; Iron overload; Siderosis; Thalassaemia
Chronic transfusion therapy (CTT) is a mainstay for stroke prophylaxis in sickle cell anemia, but its effects on hemodynamics are poorly characterized. Transfusion improves oxygen carrying capacity, reducing demands for high cardiac output, while decreasing hemoglobin S%, reticulocyte count, and hemolysis. We hypothesized that transfusion would improve oxygen carrying capacity, but that would be counteracted by a decrease in cardiac output due to increased hematocrit and vascular resistance, leaving oxygen delivery unchanged.
Study Design and Methods
To test this hypothesis, we examined patients on CTT immediately pre transfusion and again 12–120 hours post transfusion, using echocardiography and near infrared spectroscopy.
Comparable increases in hemoglobin and hematocrit, and decreases in reticulocyte count and hemoglobin S with transfusion were observed in all patients; but males had a larger rebound of hemoglobin S%, reticulocyte count, and free hemoglobin levels between transfusions. In males, transfusion decreased heart rate by 12%, stroke volume by 15%, and cardiac index by 24% while estimates for pulmonary and systemic vascular resistance rose, culminating in 6% decrease in oxygen delivery. In contrast, stroke volume and cardiac index, systemic and pulmonary vascular resistance did not change in women following transfusion, such that oxygen delivery improved 17%.
In our sample population, males exhibit a paradoxical reduction in oxygen delivery in response to transfusion because the rise in vascular resistance is larger than the increase in oxygen capacity. This may result from an inability to adequately suppress their hemoglobin S% between transfusion cycles.
Pulmonary Circulation; Vascular Resistance; Cardiopulmonary Interactions; Cardiovascular Performance
This study compared pulmonary function tests (PFTs) with cardiac, pancreatic and liver iron in 76 thalassemia major (TM) patients. Restrictive lung disease was observed in 16%, hyperinflation in 32%, and abnormal diffusing capacity in 3%. While no patients met Global Initiative for Chronic Lung Disease criteria for airways obstruction, there were indicators of small airways disease and air trapping. PFTs did not correlate with somatic iron burden, blood counts or haemolysis. Restrictive lung disease was associated with inflammation. We conclude that TM patients have pulmonary abnormalities consistent with small airways obstruction. Restrictive disease and impaired diffusion are less common.
Iron overload; pulmonary function; thalassaemia; magnetic resonance imaging; lung disease
Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) is a life-threatening disease manifested by progressive pulmonary vascular remodeling, compromised pulmonary blood flow and right heart failure. Most studies explore how pulmonary endothelial function modulates disease pathogenesis. We hypothesize that IPAH is a progressive panvasculopathy, affecting both pulmonary and systemic vascular beds, and that systemic endothelial dysfunction correlates with disease severity. Recent studies demonstrate systemic endothelial dysfunction in adults with pulmonary hypertension, however adults often have additional comorbidities affecting endothelial function. Systemic endothelial function has not been explored in children with IPAH.
This single-center, prospective, cross-sectional study examined brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD), a nitric oxide mediated, endothelial-dependent response, in children with IPAH and matched controls. FMD measurements were compared with clinical and echocardiographic measures of IPAH severity.
Thirteen patients and 13 controls were studied, ages 6–20 years old. FMD was decreased in IPAH subjects compared with controls (5.1 +/− 2.1% vs 9.7 +/− 2.0%; p<0.0001). In IPAH subjects, FMD correlated directly with cardiac index (R2=0.34, p=0.035), and inversely with tricuspid regurgitation velocity (R2=0.57, p=0.019) and right ventricular myocardial performance index (R2= 0.44, p=0.028).
The presence of systemic endothelial dysfunction in children with IPAH and its strong association with IPAH severity demonstrate that IPAH is a global vasculopathy. Although morbidity in IPAH is typically associated with pulmonary vascular disease, systemic vascular changes may also relate to disease pathogenesis and progression. Further study into shared mechanisms of systemic and pulmonary endothelial dysfunction may contribute to future therapies for IPAH.
Iron overload is a serious condition for patients with β-thalassemia, transfusion-dependent sickle cell anemia and inherited disorders of iron metabolism. MRI is becoming increasingly important in non-invasive quantification of tissue iron, overcoming the drawbacks of traditional techniques (liver biopsy). R2*(1/T2*) rises linearly with iron while R2(1/T2) has a curvilinear relationship in human liver. Although recent work has demonstrated clinically-valid estimates of human liver iron, the calibration varies with MRI sequence, field strength, iron chelation therapy and organ imaged, forcing recalibration in patients. To understand and correct these limitations, a thorough understanding of the underlying biophysics is of critical importance. Toward this end, a Monte Carlo based approach, using human liver as a ‘model’ tissue system, was employed to determine the contribution of particle size and distribution on MRI signal relaxation. Relaxivities were determined for hepatic iron concentrations (HIC) ranging from 0.5–40 mg iron/ g dry tissue weight. Model predictions captured the linear and curvilinear relationship of R2* and R2 with HIC respectively and were within in vivo confidence bounds; contact or chemical exchange mechanisms were not necessary. A validated and optimized model will aid understanding and quantification of iron-mediated relaxivity in tissues where biopsy is not feasible (heart, spleen).
iron overload; liver; Monte Carlo; relaxation; relaxivity
Measurement of myocardial iron is key to the clinical management of patients at risk of siderotic cardiomyopathy. The cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) relaxation parameter R2* (assessed clinically via its reciprocal T2*) measured in the ventricular septum is used to assess cardiac iron, but iron calibration and distribution data in humans is limited.
Methods and Results
Twelve human hearts were studied from transfusion dependent patients following either death (heart failure n=7, stroke n=1) or transplantation for end-stage heart failure (n=4). After CMR R2* measurement, tissue iron concentration was measured in multiple samples of each heart using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy. Iron distribution throughout the heart showed no systematic variation between segments, but epicardial iron concentration was higher than in the endocardium. The mean (±SD) global myocardial iron causing severe heart failure in 10 patients was 5.98 ±2.42mg/g dw (range 3.19–9.50), but in 1 outlier case of heart failure was 25.9mg/g dw. Myocardial ln[R2*] was strongly linearly correlated with ln[Fe] (R2=0.910, p<0.001) leading to [Fe]=45.0•(T2*)−1.22 for the clinical calibration equation with [Fe] in mg/g dw and T2* in ms. Mid-ventricular septal iron concentration and R2* were both highly representative of mean global myocardial iron.
These data detail the iron distribution throughout the heart in iron overload and provide calibration in humans for CMR R2* against myocardial iron concentration. The iron values are of considerable interest with regard to the level of cardiac iron associated with iron-related death and indicate that the heart is more sensitive to iron loading than the liver. The results also validate the current clinical practice of monitoring cardiac iron in-vivo by CMR of the mid septum.
Magnetic resonance imaging; heart; iron overload; siderosis; thalassemia
Deferasirox effectively controls liver iron concentration; however, little is known regarding its ability to remove stored cardiac iron. Deferiprone seems to have increased cardiac efficacy compared with traditional deferoxamine therapy. Therefore, the relative efficacy of deferasirox and deferiprone were compared in removing cardiac iron from iron-loaded gerbils.
Twenty-nine 8- to 10-week-old female gerbils underwent 10 weekly iron dextran injections of 200 mg/kg/week. Prechelation iron levels were assessed in 5 animals, and the remainder received deferasirox 100 mg/kg/D po QD (n = 8), deferiprone 375 mg/kg/D po divided TID (n = 8), or sham chelation (n = 8), 5 days/week for 12 weeks.
Deferasirox reduced cardiac iron content 20.5%. No changes occurred in cardiac weight, myocyte hypertrophy, fibrosis, or weight-to-dry weight ratio. Deferasirox treatment reduced liver iron content 51%. Deferiprone produced comparable reductions in cardiac iron content (18.6% reduction). Deferiprone-treated hearts had greater mass (16.5% increase) and increased myocyte hypertrophy. Deferiprone decreased liver iron content 24.9% but was associated with an increase in liver weight and water content.
Deferasirox and deferiprone were equally effective in removing stored cardiac iron in a gerbil animal model, but deferasirox removed more hepatic iron for a given cardiac iron burden.
Iron overload occurs in patients who require regular blood transfusions to correct genetic and acquired anaemias, such as β-thalassaemia major, sickle cell disease, and myelodysplastic syndromes. Although iron overload causes damage in many organs, accumulation of cardiac iron is a leading cause of death in transfused patients with β-thalassaemia major. The symptoms of cardiac iron overload will occur long after the first cardiac iron accumulation, at a point when treatment is more complex than primary prevention would have been. Direct measurement of cardiac iron using T2* magnetic resonance imaging, rather than indirect methods such as measuring serum ferritin levels or liver iron concentration have contributed to earlier recognition of myocardial iron loading and prevention of cardiac toxicity. Cardiac siderosis occurs in all transfusional anaemias, but the relative risk depends upon the underlying disease state, transfusional load, and chelation history. All three available iron chelators can be used to remove cardiac iron, but each has unique physical properties that influence their cardiac efficacy. More prospective trials are needed to assess the effects of single-agent or combination iron chelation therapy on the levels of cardiac iron and cardiac function. Ultimately, iron chelation therapies should be tailored to meet individual patient needs and lifestyle demands.
Cardiac iron; Iron chelation therapy; Myelodysplastic syndrome; Sickle cell disease; β-Thalassaemia major
Rationale: Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder characterized by vasoocclusive crises. Although hypoxia and pulmonary disease are known risk factors for these crises, the mechanisms that initiate vasoocclusive events are not well known.
Objectives: To study the relationship between transient hypoxia, respiration, and microvascular blood flow in patients with sickle cell.
Methods: We established a protocol that mimics nighttime hypoxic episodes and measured microvascular blood flow to determine if transient hypoxia causes a decrease in microvascular blood flow. Significant desaturations were induced safely by five breaths of 100% nitrogen.
Measurements and Main Results: Desaturation did not induce change in microvascular perfusion; however, it induced substantial transient parasympathetic activity withdrawal in patients with sickle cell disease, but not controls subjects. Marked periodic drops in peripheral microvascular perfusion, unrelated to hypoxia, were triggered by sighs in 11 of 11 patients with sickle cell and 8 of 11 control subjects. Although the sigh frequency was the same in both groups, the probability of a sigh inducing a perfusion drop was 78% in patients with sickle cell and 17% in control subjects (P < 0.001). Evidence for sigh-induced sympathetic nervous system dominance was seen in patients with sickle cell (P < 0.05), but was not significant in control subjects.
Conclusions: These data demonstrate significant disruption of autonomic nervous system balance, with marked parasympathetic withdrawal in response to transient hypoxia. They draw attention to an enhanced autonomic nervous system–mediated sigh–vasoconstrictor response in patients with sickle cell that could increase red cell retention in the microvasculature, promoting vasoocclusion.
hypoxia; autonomic nervous system; respiration; vasoconstriction; sickle cell disease
Iron cardiomyopathy remains the leading cause of death in patients with thalassemia major. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is ideally suited for monitoring thalassemia patients because it can detect cardiac and liver iron burdens as well as accurately measure left ventricular dimensions and function. However, patients with thalassemia have unique physiology that alters their normative data. In this article, we review the physiology and pathophysiology of thalassemic heart disease as well as the use of MRI to monitor it. Despite regular transfusions, thalassemia major patients have larger ventricular volumes, higher cardiac outputs, and lower total vascular resistances than published data for healthy control subjects; these hemodynamic findings are consistent with chronic anemia. Cardiac iron overload increases the relative risk of further dilation, arrhythmias, and decreased systolic function. However, many patients are asymptomatic despite heavy cardiac burdens. We explore possible mechanisms behind cardiac iron-function relationships and relate these mechanisms to clinical observations.
iron; heart; MRI; ejection fraction; cardiac function; T2*
We reviewed cardiac T2* assessments from 77 thalassemia major patients between the ages of 2.5 and 18 years to study optimal timing of cardiac iron screening by magnetic resonance imaging. No patient under 9.5 years of age showed detectable cardiac iron in contrast to 36% of patients between the ages of 15–18 years old, corresponding to an odds-ratio of 1.28 (28%) per year. All patients with cardiac iron had received at least 35 grams of transfusional iron. Liver iron and ferritin failed to predict cardiac iron loading. Initiation of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging assessment should be determined according to age and transfusional burden rather than indices of iron overload. When appropriate chelation therapy has been administered since birth, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging can be postponed until 8 years of age when anesthesia is not required. Patients with suboptimal chelation, increased transfusional requirements, or who have initiated transfusions later in life should be tested sooner.
thalassemia major; heart; MRI; iron overload; children
MRI is becoming an increasingly important tool to assess iron overload disorders, but the complex nature of proton–iron interactions has troubled noninvasive iron quantification. Intersite and intersequence variability as well as methodological inaccuracies have been limiting factors to its widespread clinical use. It is important to understand the underlying proton relaxation mechanisms within the (human) tissue environment to address these differences. In this respect, NMR relaxometry was performed on 10 fresh human liver biopsy specimens taken from patients with transfusion-dependent anemia. T1 (1/R1) inversion recovery, T2 (1/R2) single echo, and multiecho T2 CPMG measurements were performed on a 60-MHz Bruker Minispectrometer. NMR parameters were compared to quantitative iron levels and tissue histology. Relaxivities R1 and R2 both increased linearly with hepatic iron content, with R2 being more sensitive to iron. CPMG data were well described by a chemical-exchange model and predicted effective iron center dimensions consistent with hemosiderin-filled lysosomes. Nonexponential relaxation was evident at short refocusing intervals with R2 and amplitude behavior suggestive of magnetic susceptibility-based compartmentalization rather than anatomic subdivisions. NMR relaxometry of human liver biopsy specimens yields unique insights into the mechanisms of tissue–iron relaxivity.
relaxation; iron overload; liver; magnetic susceptibility; mathematical modeling
Close monitoring of liver iron content is necessary to prevent iron overload in transfusion-dependent anemias. Liver biopsy remains the gold standard; however, MRI potentially offers a noninvasive alternative. Iron metabolism and storage is complicated and tissue/disease-specific. This report demonstrates that iron distribution may be more important than iron speciation with respect to MRI signal changes. Simple synthetic analogs of hepatic lysosomes were constructed from noncovalent attachment of horse-spleen ferritin to 0.4 μm diameter phospholipid liposomes suspended in agarose. Graded iron loading was achieved by varying ferritin burden per liposome as well as liposomal volume fraction. T1 and T2 relaxation times were measured on a 60 MHz NMR spectrometer and compared to simple ferritin-gel combinations. Liposomal-ferritin had 6-fold stronger T2 relaxivity than unaggregated ferritin but identical T1 relaxivity. Liposomal-ferritin T2 relaxivity also more closely matched published results from hemosiderotic marmoset liver, suggesting a potential role as an iron-calibration phantom.
iron overload; MRI; liver; hemochromatosis; thalassemia; T2; T1; relaxometry; ferritin; microspheres
Purpose of review
To highlight recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging estimation of somatic iron overload. This review will discuss the need and principles of magnetic resonance imaging-based iron measurements, the validation of liver and cardiac iron measurements, and the key institutional requirements for implementation.
Magnetic resonance imaging assessment of liver and cardiac iron has achieved critical levels of availability, utility, and validity to serve as the primary endpoint of clinical trials. Calibration curves for the magnetic resonance imaging parameters R2 and R2* (or their reciprocals, T2 and T2*) have been developed for the liver and the heart. Interscanner variability for these techniques has proven to be on the order of 5–7%.
Magnetic resonance imaging assessment of tissue iron is becoming increasingly important in the management of transfusional iron load because it is noninvasive, relatively widely available and offers a window into presymptomatic organ dysfunction. The techniques are highly reproducible within and across machines and have been chemically validated in the liver and the heart. These techniques will become the standard of care as industry begins to support the acquisition and postprocessing software.
heart; iron overload; liver; magnetic resonance imaging; thalassemia
We measured left atrial size and function from biplane MRI data in 62 adults with thalassemia major. Age-adjusted left atrial ejection fraction was depressed in 7 out of 20 subjects having T2* < 10 ms. Left atrial size, left ventricular size and cardiac output fell with cardiac iron loading, representing increased cardiac or peripheral vascular stiffness.
thalassemia; diastolic function; systolic function; iron overload; MRI
Iron-induced cardiac dysfunction is a leading cause of death in transfusion-dependent anemia. MRI relaxation rates R2(1/T2) and R2∗(1∕T2∗) accurately predict liver iron concentration, but their ability to predict cardiac iron has been challenged by some investigators. Studies in animal models support similar R2 and R2∗ behavior with heart and liver iron, but human studies are lacking. To determine the relationship between MRI relaxivities and cardiac iron, regional variations in R2 and R2∗ were compared with iron distribution in one freshly deceased, unfixed, iron-loaded heart. R2 and R2∗ were proportionally related to regional iron concentrations and highly concordant with one another within the interventricular septum. A comparison of postmortem and in vitro measurements supports the notion that cardiac R2∗ should be assessed in the septum rather than the whole heart. These data, along with measurements from controls, provide bounds on MRI-iron calibration curves in human heart and further support the clinical use of cardiac MRI in iron-overload syndromes.
postmortem; T2; T2∗; iron; heart; thalassemia
Editorials; anemia; arrhythmia; heart failure; iron overload; magnetic resonance imaging
Patients with transfusion-dependent anemia develop cardiac and endocrine toxicity from iron overload. Classically, serum ferritin and liver biopsy have been used to monitor patient response to chelation therapy. Recently, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has proven effective in detecting and quantifying iron in the heart and liver. Tissue iron is paramagnetic and increases the MRI relaxation rates R2 and R2* in a quantifiable manner. This review outlines the principles and validation of non invasive iron estimation by MRI, as well as discussing some of the technical considerations necessary for accurate measurements. Specifically, the use of R2 or R2* methods, choice of echo times, appropriate model for data fitting, the use of a pixel-wise or region-based measurement, and the choice of field strength are discussed.
Iron Overload; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); Thalassemia; Sickle Cell Disease; Liver; Heart
Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) appear to be at lower risk of endocrinopathies and cardiac dysfunction than those with thalassemia major (TM). Circulating redox active iron is lower in these patients, possibly due to increased systemic inflammation and circulating cytokines. Hepcidin synthesis is upregulated during chronic inflammation, reducing intestinal iron absorption and promoting retention of iron in the reticuloendothelial cells. Hence, we hypothesized that livers of patients with SCD would exhibit greater iron deposition in sinusoidal spaces relative to hepatocytes and less in portal tracts when compared to patients with TM. To test this hypothesis, iron scoring analysis was performed on 70 clinically indicated liver biopsy specimens from children and young adults with the two syndromes. Sinusoidal scores were lower in around 1 of 4 patients with TM but the relative iron loading in hepatocytes, and portal tracts was identical in both diseases. Sinusoidal iron burdens saturated at low hepatic iron concentration (HIC) while hepatocyte and portal iron depots increased proportionally to HIC. Liver fibrosis was increased in patients with TM regardless of their chronic hepatitis status. Overall, liver iron distribution was relatively insensitive to differences in disease type and to the presence or absence of hepatitis.