The left atrium (LA) has a crucial function in maintaining left ventricular filling, which is responsible for about one-third of all cardiac filling. A growing body of evidence shows that LA is involved in several cardiovascular diseases from a clinical and prognostic standpoint. LA enlargement has been recognized as a predictor of the outcomes of many diseases. However, LA enlargement itself does not explain the whole LA's function during the cardiac cycle. For this reason, the recently proposed assessment of atrial strain at advanced cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) enables the usual limitations of the sole LA volumetric measurement to be overcome. Moreover, the left atrial strain impairment might allow several cardiovascular diseases to be detected at an earlier stage. While traditional CMR has a central role in assessing LA volume and, through cine sequences, a marginal role in evaluating LA function, feature tracking at advanced CMR (CMR-FT) has been increasingly confirmed as a feasible and reproducible technique for assessing LA function through strain. In comparison to atrial function evaluations via speckle tracking echocardiography, CMR-FT has a higher spatial resolution, larger field of view, and better reproducibility. In this literature review on atrial strain analysis, we describe the strengths, limitations, recent applications, and promising developments of studying atrial function using CMR-FT in clinical practice. KEY POINTS: • The left atrium has a crucial function in maintaining left ventricular filling; left atrial size has been recognized as a predictor of the outcomes of many diseases. • Left atrial strain has been confirmed as a marker of atrial functional status and demonstrated to be a sensitive tool in the subclinical phase of a disease. • A comprehensive evaluation of the three phases of atrial function by CMR-FT demonstrates an impairment before the onset of atrial enlargement, thus helping clinicians in their decision-making and improving patient outcomes.
Reference: The emerging role of atrial strain assessed by cardiac MRI in different cardiovascular settings: an up-to-date review. Cau R, Bassareo P, Suri JS, Pontone G, Saba L. Eur Radiol. 2022 Apr 22.