Novel imaging biomarkers: epicardial adipose tissue evaluation

Caterina B Monti, Marina Codari, Carlo Nicola De Cecco, Francesco Secchi, Francesco Sardanelli, Arthur E Stillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) is a metabolically activated beige adipose tissue, non-homogeneously surrounding the myocardium. Physiologically, EAT regulates toxic fatty acids, protects the coronary arteries against mechanical strain, regulates proinflammatory cytokines, stimulates the production of nitric oxide, reduces oxidative stress, and works as a thermogenic source against hypothermia. Conversely, EAT has pathologic paracrine interactions with the surrounded vessels, and might favour the onset of atrial fibrillation. In addition, initial atherosclerotic lesions can promote inflammation and trigger the EAT production of cytokines increasing vascular inflammation, which, in turn, may help the development of collateral vessels but also of self-stimulating, dysregulated inflammatory process, increasing coronary artery disease severity. Variations in EAT were also linked to metabolic syndrome. Echocardiography first estimated EAT measuring its thickness on the free wall of the right ventricle but does not allow accurate volumetric EAT estimates. Cardiac CT (CCT) and cardiac MR (CMR) allow for three-dimensional EAT estimates, the former showing higher spatial resolution and reproducibility but being limited by radiation exposure and long segmentation times, the latter being radiation-free but limited by lower spatial resolution and reproducibility, higher cost, and difficulties for obese patients. EAT radiodensity at CCT could to be related to underlying metabolic processes. The correlation between EAT and response to certain pharmacological therapies has also been investigated, showing promising results. In the future, semi-automatic or fully automatic techniques, machine/deep-learning methods, if validated, will facilitate research for various EAT measures and may find a place in CCT/CMR reporting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20190770
JournalThe British journal of radiology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Dec 11 2019

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