Blood Oxygen Level–Dependent Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Kidneys: Influence of Spatial Resolution on the Apparent R2* Transverse Relaxation Rate of Renal Tissue

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The aim of this study was to quantify the influence of image resolution on the apparent transverse relaxivity (R2*) of the magnetic resonance (MR) signal in human renal tissue in vivo and in phantom measurements.

Materials and Methods

This prospective study included 17 healthy volunteers (age, 32 ± 8 years, 6 women). Parametrical R2* maps were computed via monoexponential fitting of multiecho 2-dimensional fast-field echo data measured at 1.5 T (repetition time [TR], 150 milliseconds; flip angle [FA], 40°; minimum echo time [TE], 4.6 milliseconds; ΔTE, 5 milliseconds; 16 echoes) and at 3 T (TR, 140 milliseconds; FA, 70°; minimum TE, 2 milliseconds; ΔTE, 5 milliseconds; 16 echoes) with varying nominal volumes of the encoded voxels (from 5.76 to 36.0 mm3). For each voxel size, mean R2* values were computed in regions of interest drawn in the left and right renal parenchyma. For data acquired using minimum voxel size, the mean R2* values were computed over the cortex and medulla separately. The squared 2-norm of the residuals was computed to evaluate the goodness of the pixel-wise exponential fits. Six multiecho MR images of a water phantom were acquired using a 2-dimensional fast-field echo sequence (FA, 50°; TR, 108 milliseconds; TE, 4 milliseconds; ΔTE, 20 milliseconds) at 3 T after shim adjustment and in the presence of a uniform background gradient of 40 μT/m. The nominal voxel size was varied in a range between 2 and 12.5 mm3.


Mean R2* values of 13.04 ± 0.71 s−1 (right renal cortex) and 16.47 ± 1.92 s−1 (right renal medulla) were computed at 1.5 T. At 3 T, the R2* of the right medulla was 28.27 ± 1.52 s−1 and the cortical R2* was 19.22 ± 2.32 s−1. Comparable relaxivity values were found over the left kidney at both field strengths. Increasing R2* values were observed for increasing voxel volume in both the water phantom and renal tissue data. At a constant slice thickness of 4 mm, the decrease in the in-plane resolution from 1.2 × 1.2 mm2 to 3.0 × 3.0 mm2 led to a maximum increase of the renal R2* of 15% at 1.5 T and of 12% at 3 T. Increasing the slice thickness from 3 to 8 mm at a constant in-plane resolution of 1.5 × 1.5 mm2 resulted in a maximum increase of the renal R2* of 30% at 1.5 T and of 26% at 3 T. On the other hand, increasing the voxel size improved the goodness of the fit implied by the smaller residuals.


The phantom experiments and in vivo acquisitions of healthy renal tissue documented a significant dependence of the apparent R2* relaxation rate on the spatial resolution of the MR imaging data. In clinical practice, the voxel volume for the quantification of renal R2* should be optimized in a compromise between minimizing the effects of macroscopic field inhomogeneity and maintaining a sufficiently high signal-to-noise ratio and goodness of fit. When comparing quantitative R2* among different publications, the influence of the spatial resolution should be taken into account.

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