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Myocardial strain is increasingly recognized as an important assessment for myocardial function. In addition, it also improves outcome prediction. However, there is lack of standardization in strain evaluation by cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR). In this study we compared strain values using multiple techniques and multiple vendor products.
Prospectively recruited patients with cardiomyopathy of diverse etiology (N = 77) and healthy controls (N = 10) underwent CMR on a 1.5 T scanner. Tagging, displacement encoding with stimulated echoes (DENSE) and balanced stead state free precession cine imaging were acquired on all subjects. A single matched mid left ventricular (LV) short axis plane was used for the comparisons of peak circumferential (Ecc) and radial strain (Err) and a 4-chamber view for longitudinal strain (Ell). Tagging images were analyzed using harmonic phase (HARP) and displacement encoding with stimulated echoes (DENSE) images using a proprietary program. Feature tracking (FT) was evaluated using 3 commercially available software from Tomtec Imaging Systems, Cardiac Image Modeller (CIM), and Circle Cardiovascular Imaging. Tagging data were used as reference. Statistic analyses were performed using paired t-test, intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), Bland Altman limits of agreement and coefficient of variations.
Average LV ejection fraction was 50% (range 32 to 62%). Regional LV wall motion abnormalities were present in 48% of the analyzed planes. The average Ecc was − 13 ± 4%, − 13 ± 4%, − 16 ± 6%, − 10 ± 3% and − 14 ± 4% for tagging, DENSE, Tomtec, CIM and Circle, respectively, with the best agreement seen in DENSE and Circle with tagging. The Err was highly varied with poor agreement across the techniques, 32 ± 24%, 40 ± 28%, 47 ± 26%, 64 ± 33% and 23 ± 9% for tagging, DENSE, Tomtec, CIM and Circle, respectively. The average Ell was − 14 ± 4%, − 8 ± 3%, − 13 ± 5%, − 11 ± 3% and − 12 ± 4% for tagging, DENSE, Tomtec, CIM and Circle, respectively with the best agreement seen in Tomtec and Circle with tagging. In the intra- and inter-observer agreement analysis the reproducibility of each technique was good except for Err by HARP.
Small but important differences are evident in Ecc and Ell comparisons among vendors while large differences are seen in Err assessment. Our findings suggest that CMR strain values are technique and vendor dependent. Hence, it is essential to develop reference standard from each technique and analytical product for clinical use, and to sequentially compare patient data using the same software.