A new technology called “virtual native enhancement” (VNE) may soon eliminate the need for gadolinium as a contrast agent for patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy undergoing cardiac MRI. Gadolinium, a heavy metal contrast agent which is injected intravenously, has long been used in cardiac MRI scans to spot cardiac scar tissue in patients with HCM. In 2017, the FDA issued a safety communication relating to gadolinium because it was found that gadolinium remains in the body for months to years after the use of the drug.
The new VNE technology, recently described in the journal Circulation, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to virtually enhance the standard MRI image. The technology was developed using data taken from 1348 HCM patients and was validated in the HCM population, but the technology may have uses extending beyond HCM.
By avoiding the use of the contrast agent, this technology avoids side effects and long term consequences from the use of gadolinium. Additionally, it will make cardiac MRI available to patients who are allergic to gadolinium. VNE is also faster and cheaper that current technology used for cardiac MRI, which may make more frequent MRI monitoring of patients feasible.