UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science
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Vascular imaging and physics
The vascular imaging and physics group is involved in 2 main areas: 1) developing methodologies to better understand vascular disease and 2) developing novel MR sequences that allow more sophisticated assessment of patients with cardiovascular disease. In the past few years we have successfully implemented exercise and mental stress CMR, real-time CMR in infants without anaesthetic, and complex vascular assessment using fractal analysis. We are also active in producing plugins for the open source OsiriX DICOM platform. The group consists of both clinicians and MR physicists with all projects benefiting from dual involvement. Our future goals include- 15 minute CMR exams in children, non-invasive assessment of pulmonary vascular resistance, and MR augmented cardiopulmonary exercise testing.
Key research activities
Our group has significant interest in the development of fast MRI technologies. One of our main areas of interest in fast MRI is real-time imaging. Real-time techniques reduce the need for general anaesthetic in children undergoing MRI making it a safer and less invasive procedure. Furthermore, fast MRI allows acquisition of very large multidimensional data sets (4D flow, Fourier velocity encoding) in a short length of time. Such techniques have the potential to significantly increase are understanding of cardiovascular disease.
Fast imaging has also allowed us to start assessing the cardiovascular response to physiological stressors. These include aerobic exercise, isometric exercise and mental stress. The ability to assess the cardiovascular system during stress opens up the possibility of more accurate detection of disease at an earlier stage in the natural history.
New MRI techniques developed by our group require computer intensive reconstruction and processing. We are actively involved in developing MRI reconstruction methodologies that run on massively parallel graphical processing units. These units offer the power of a supercomputer in a small form factor and at relatively low cost. Such technologies will undoubtedly revolutionize certain aspects of MRI, particularly ones requiring complex computing.
Assessing the vasculature is an important part of assessing cardiovascular disease. We have developed novel methods of assessing vascular trees using concepts borrowed from fractal geometry. These novel markers of diseases like pulmonary hypertension may provide new insights into pathophysiology.
MRI is considered a reference standard method of assessing the cardiovascular system. This can be combined with cardiac catheterisation to provide more information during diagnostic and interventional procedures. Our main use for this technology is MR augmented PVR studies which allow better assessment of patients with pulmonary hypertension.