Three-dimensional visualization of coronary arteries in excised hearts
Objective: We sought to image coronary arteries in excised hearts. Methods: Twelve excised pigs' hearts were imaged in a water bath. The aortic valve was closed surgically. A contrast agent (Echovist) was Injected into the aortic root and selectively into single coronary arteries. Three-dimensional (3D) imaging was performed with TomTec Echoscan equipment. Mechanical rotations were performed at 1 degrees intervals. The hearts were visualized by InVivo software. Selective coloring of coronary arteries in 3D data sets was obtained by using color superpositioning, which differentiates information before and after injection of contrast. Distance measurements were performed in conventional 3D echocardiograms of coronary arteries and color-superimposed echocardiograms and compared with those from angiograms and casts. Results: After a learning curve, during which optimal conditions for the visualization of coronary arteries were determined, a quick display of all major parts of the coronary tree was obtained. Distance measurements (n >400) revealed that fundamental contrast echocardiography overestimated angiography by 25% +/- 5% and casts by 28% +/- 6%. However, distances in color-superimposed echocardiograms (flow mode 4) were not significantly different from those obtained from angiograms and casts. In harmonic contrast echocardiograms, color super-positioning gave smaller distances compared with those from fundamental contrast echocardiograms, though they were still significantly larger than the reference diameters. Conclusions: The 3D Imaging of epicardial coronary arteries under ideal conditions in a water bath seems feasible and provides insight into coronary visualization with the use of ultrasonography.