When imaging studies (e.g. CT) are used to quantify morphological changes in an anatomical structure, it is necessary to understand the extent and source of motion which can give imaging artifacts (e.g. blurring or local distortion). The objective of this study was to assess the magnitude of esophageal motion due to cardiac motion. We used retrospective electrocardiogram-gated contrast-enhanced computed tomography angiography images for this study. The anatomic region from the carina to the bottom of the heart was taken at deep-inspiration breath hold with the patients' arms raised above their shoulders, in a position similar to that used for radiation therapy. The esophagus was delineated on the diastolic phase of cardiac motion, and deformable registration was used to sequentially deform the images in nearest-neighbor phases among the 10 cardiac phases, starting from the diastolic phase. Using the 10 deformation fields generated from the deformable registration, the magnitude of the extreme displacements was then calculated for each voxel, and the mean and maximum displacement was calculated for each computed tomography slice for each patient. The average maximum esophageal displacement due to cardiac motion for all patients was 5.8 mm (standard deviation: 1.6 mm, maximum: 10.0 mm) in the transverse direction. For 21 of 26 patients, the largest esophageal motion was found in the inferior region of the heart; for the other patients, esophageal motion was approximately independent of superior-inferior position. The esophagus motion was larger at cardiac phases where the electrocardiogram R-wave occurs. In conclusion, the magnitude of esophageal motion near the heart due to cardiac motion is similar to that due to other sources of motion, including respiratory motion and intra-fraction motion. A larger cardiac motion will result into larger esophagus motion in a cardiac cycle. © 2014 Palmer et al.
Palmer, J., Yang, J., Pan, T., & Court, L. E. (2014). Motion of the esophagus due to cardiac motion. PLoS ONE, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0089126