Assessment of Intramyocardial Fat Content Using Computed Tomography: Is There a Relationship With Obesity?
May 1, 2021
Citation: J Thorac Imaging. 2021 May 1; 36(3): 162-165

BACKGROUND Fat deposition in the liver and the skeletal muscle are linked to cardiovascular risk factors. Fat content in tissues can be estimated by measuring attenuation on noncontrast computed tomography (CT). Quantifying intramyocardial fat content is of interest as it may be related to myocardial dysfunction or development of heart failure. We hypothesized that myocardial fat content would correlate with severity of obesity, liver fat, and components of the metabolic syndrome.
METHODS We measured attenuation values on 121 noncontrast CT scans from the spleen, liver, erector spinae muscle, and myocardial septum. A chart review was performed for patient demographics and clinical characteristics. We tested for correlations between attenuation values in each of the tissues and various clinical parameters.
RESULTS We studied 78 females and 43 males, with a mean age of 54.5±11.2 years. Weak, but significant inverse Spearman correlation between body mass index and attenuation values were found in the liver (ρ=-0.228, P=0.012), spleen (ρ=-0.225, P=0.017), and erector spinae muscle (ρ=-0.211, P=0.022) but not in the myocardial septum (ρ=0.012, P=0.897). Mean attenuation in the nonobese group versus obese group (body mass index>30 kg/m2) were 41.1±5.0 versus 42.3±6.9 (P=0.270) in myocardial septum, 56.1±8.7 versus 51.7±10.9 (P=0.016) in the liver, 43.9±8.9 versus 40.1±10.4 (P=0.043) in the spleen, and 41.7±8.3 versus 39.0±8.8 (P=0.087) in the erector spinae muscle.
CONCLUSIONS Although CT is a theoretically appealing modality to assess fat content of the myocardium, we did not find a relationship between myocardial CT attenuation and obesity, or other cardiovascular risk factors. These findings suggest that the degree of myocardial fat accumulation in obesity or metabolic syndrome is too small to be detected with this modality.