Magnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 7-12

First online:

T2 relaxation time study of iron overload in b-thalassemia

  • S. I. MavrogeniAffiliated withOnassis Cardiac Surgery Center Email author 
  • , E. D. GotsisAffiliated withEncephalos Institute
  • , V. MarkussisAffiliated withEncephalos Institute
  • , N. TsekosAffiliated withUniversity of Minnesota
  • , C. PolitisAffiliated withDrakopoulion Hospital
  • , E. VretouAffiliated withDrakopoulion Hospital
  • , D. KremastinosAffiliated withOnassis Cardiac Surgery Center

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Myocardial iron deposition occurs as a result of blood transfusion therapy in b-thalassemia major patients. Since this deposition causes various cardiac complications, it is of interest to assess the iron content of the myocardium in relation to the clinical picture of the patients. Two different MRI indices were used to achieve this purpose: the T2 relaxation time and the heart/skeletal muscle signal intensity ratio. ECG gated spin echo images were obtained from 54 adult thalassemic patients, with a mean age of 26 (18–44) years, at TE = 22 ms and 60 ms, using a 1.5 T system. Patients were divided into 2 groups (A and B), according to their serum ferritin levels (> or < 2000 ng ml-1). Results were compared with nine controls, with a mean age of 25 (18–43) years. Heart T2 relaxation time in controls (44.3 ± 3.5 ms) was higher than in group A (29.9 ± 5.7 ms,P< 0.001) and group B (33.4 ± 6.8 ms,P < 0.01). T2 was measurable in 66% of group A and 83% of group B patients. The heart/muscle signal intensity ratio in group A (0.45 ± 0.27) was lower than in group B (0.82 ± 0.33,P < 0.001) and the controls (1.15 ± 0.20,P < 0.001). The heart/muscle signal intensity ratio was measurable in 94% of the patients and demonstrated an inverse relationship with the serum ferritin levels(r = - 0.52, P<0.01). This study indicates that the heart/muscle ratio is a sensitive index of iron overload and it can be measured in the majority of patients, irrespective of tissue iron concentration, thereby offering an advantage over the use of T2 relaxation time. © 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


b-Thalassemia Heart T2 relaxation time