Arrhythmic risk stratification by cardiac magnetic resonance tissue characterization: disclosing the arrhythmic substrate within the heart muscle


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a pivotal health problem worldwide. The identification of subjects at increased risk of SCD is crucial for the accurate selection of candidates for implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) therapy. Current strategies for arrhythmic stratification largely rely on left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction (EF), mostly measured by echocardiography, and New York Heart Association functional status for heart failure with reduced EF. For specific diseases, such as hypertrophic and arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, some risk scores have been proposed; however, these scores take into account some parameters that are a partial reflection of the global arrhythmic risk and show a suboptimal accuracy. Thanks to a more comprehensive evaluation, cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) provides insights into the heart muscle (the so-called tissue characterization) identifying cardiac fibrosis as an arrhythmic substrate. Combining sequences before and after administration of contrast media and mapping techniques, CMR is able to characterize the myocardial tissue composition, shedding light on both intracellular and extracellular alterations. Over time, late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) emerged as solid prognostic marker, strongly associated with major arrhythmic events regardless of LVEF, adding incremental value over current strategy in ischemic heart disease and non-ischemic cardiomyopathies. The evidence on a potential prognostic role of mapping imaging is promising. However, mapping techniques require further investigation and standardization. Disclosing the arrhythmic substrate within the myocardium, CMR should be considered as part of a multiparametric approach to personalized arrhythmic stratification.

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Correspondence to Marco Merlo.

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Porcari, A., De Luca, A., Grigoratos, C. et al. Arrhythmic risk stratification by cardiac magnetic resonance tissue characterization: disclosing the arrhythmic substrate within the heart muscle. Heart Fail Rev (2020).

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  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Arrhythmic stratification
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance
  • Late gadolinium enhancement
  • Mapping imaging
  • Cardiomyopathies