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BACKGROUND: Four-dimensional (4D) flow cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) allows sophisticated quantification of left atrial (LA) blood flow, and could yield novel biomarkers of propensity for intra-cardiac thrombus formation and embolic stroke. As reproducibility is critically important to diagnostic performance, we systematically investigated technical and temporal variation of LA 4D flow in atrial fibrillation (AF) and sinus rhythm (SR). METHODS: Eighty-six subjects (SR, n = 64; AF, n = 22) with wide-ranging stroke risk (CHA2DS2VASc 0-6) underwent LA 4D flow assessment of peak and mean velocity, vorticity, vortex volume, and stasis. Eighty-five (99%) underwent a second acquisition within the same session, and 74 (86%) also returned at 30 (27-35) days for an interval scan. We assessed variability attributable to manual contouring (intra- and inter-observer), and subject repositioning and reacquisition of data, both within the same session (same-day scan-rescan), and over time (interval scan). Within-subject coefficients of variation (CV) and bootstrapped 95% CIs were calculated and compared. RESULTS: Same-day scan-rescan CVs were 6% for peak velocity, 5% for mean velocity, 7% for vorticity, 9% for vortex volume, and 10% for stasis, and were similar between SR and AF subjects (all p > 0.05). Interval-scan variability was similar to same-day scan-rescan variability for peak velocity, vorticity, and vortex volume (all p > 0.05), and higher for stasis and mean velocity (interval scan CVs of 14% and 8%, respectively, both p  0.05). SR subjects showed significantly greater interval-scan variability than AF patients for mean velocity, vortex volume, and stasis (all p  0.05). CONCLUSIONS: LA peak velocity and vorticity are the most reproducible and temporally stable novel LA 4D flow biomarkers, and are robust to changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and differences in heart rhythm.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cardiovasc Magn Reson

Publication Date





4D flow, Cardioembolic risk, Cardiovascular magnetic resonance, Left atrium, Reproducibility, Stasis, Velocities, Vortex, Vorticity, Aged, Atrial Fibrillation, Atrial Function, Left, Case-Control Studies, Female, Heart Atria, Heart Rate, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cine, Male, Middle Aged, Observer Variation, Predictive Value of Tests, Prospective Studies, Reproducibility of Results, Time Factors