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Esophagus imaging

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The esophagus, located adjacent to the heart, the aorta and the respiratory system is one of the most challenging organs to assess with MRI. Furthermore, the specific structure of the esophagus with its thin walls (~2mm) and collapsed constitution, when empty, renders the detection even more demanding with existing MR techniques. Current cardiac and gastric MRI techniques are being combined and modified in order to detect esophageal structure and function.

The most frequent disorder linked to esophagus is the gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is characterized by recurrent backflow of gastric contents into the esophagus causing bothersome symptoms or damaging esophageal epithelium. If not treated GERD can cause serious complications, such as erosive esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus followed by the damage of the esophageal mucosa), esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophageal passage due to scarring) and Barrett’s esophagus (presence of columnar epithelia in the lower esophagus replacing normal squamous cell epithelium), which may result in esophageal cancer.

The gastro-esophageal junction (GEJ) is the key defense mechanism against acid reflux. Detecting of its complex anatomical structure and function is one of the gastric-research challenges. Together with clinical partners studies in healthy volunteers and GERD patients are performed in order to assess the GEJ structure and function and visualize reflux events.

Figure 2: Three transversal MR image slices of distal, middle and proximal esophagus (from left to right)
Figure 2: Three transversal MR image slices of distal, middle and proximal esophagus (from left to right). Contours of stomach and esophagus were used for 3D reconstruction.
Figure 3: 3D reconstruction showing the esophagus insertion at the GEJ
Figure 3: 3D reconstruction showing the esophagus insertion at the GEJ.
 

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