Increased collagen, or fibrosis, is an important marker of disease and may improve identification of patients at risk. In addition, fibrosis imaging may play an increasing role in guiding therapy and monitoring its effectiveness. MRI is the most frequently used modality to detect, visualize and quantify fibrosis non-invasively. However, standard MRI techniques used to phenotype cardiac fibrosis such as delayed enhancement and extracellular volume determination by T1 mapping, require the administration of gadolinium-based contrast and are particularly difficult to use in patients with cardiac devices such as pacemakers and automatic defibrillators. Therefore, such methods are limited in the serial evaluation of cardiovascular fibrosis as part of chronic disease monitoring. A method to directly measure collagen amount could be of great clinical benefit. In the current review we will discuss the potential of a novel MR technique, ultrashort echo time (UTE) MR, for fibrosis imaging. Although UTE imaging is successfully applied in other body areas such as musculoskeletal applications, there is very limited experience so far in the heart. We will review the established methods and currently available literature, discuss the technical considerations and challenges, show preliminary in vivo images and provide a future outlook on potential applications of cardiovascular UTE.
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