Cardiac MRI provided such clear images of Jason Christensen’s heart, he’s been cleared to run and lift weights, rather than wonder if such activities might harm his heart.
Christensen was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at age 17, a condition that causes the ventricle walls to thicken, which can block blood flow. The diagnosis meant he could no longer play basketball but led to a career in coaching.
“The technology they have nowadays compared to when I was 17 is just amazing,” said Christensen, head women’s basketball coach at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. “It was amazing to see such clear images of my heart.”
North Central Heart, a Division of Avera Heart Hospital, has the area’s first fellowship-trained cardiologist for cardiac MRI, which can take still and moving images of the heart and major blood vessels, providing views of the beating heart for more precise analysis of structure and function.
Elden Rand, MD, cardiologist at North Central Heart, received his fellowship training at Duke University, and has seen early success in detecting abnormalities through cardiac MRI.
The imaging technology offers a higher resolution than a PET scan for the presence of scarring in the heart and also provides different sectioned views of the heart similar to a loaf of sliced bread with the added benefit of not using radiation or dyes containing iodine.
“I have the ability to provide powerful clinical data with MRI,” Rand said. “The MRI’s resolution is unmatched, providing physicians with information about the patient’s heart structure and function that other modalities can’t provide, and that can lead to earlier diagnosis and fewer risks during surgery.”
The use of cardiac MRI continues to expand but is commonly used to diagnose a number of conditions, including:
• Coronary heart disease
• Damage caused by a heart attack
• Heart failure
• Heart valve problems
• Cardiac tumors
• Congenital heart defects
A contrast agent called gadolinium also is sometimes injected during the MRI for clearer views.
A cardiac MRI can also important for more accurate prognosis of the condition by assessing the severity of the disease and risk factors not otherwise accessible through other testing, Rand said. Christensen’s cardiologist, Michael Hibbard, MD, recommended the cardiac MRI.
For Christensen, it’s exciting to have a more definitive prognosis and be able to expand his activities.
“It took me a lot of years to realize how important it was to get a diagnosis when I did but I’m so thankful to the doctor for finding it,” Christensen said. “Everything was about basketball for me then and to this day it still is, I’m just doing in a different way as a coach.”