Magnetic Resonance Elastography of the Liver: Qualitative and Quantitative Comparison of Gradient Echo and Spin Echo Echoplanar Imaging Sequences

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ObjectiveThe aim of this study was to compare 2-dimensional (2D) gradient recalled echo (GRE) and 2D spin echo echoplanar imaging (SE-EPI) magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) sequences of the liver in terms of image quality and quantitative liver stiffness (LS) measurement.Materials and MethodsThis prospective study involved 50 consecutive subjects (male/female, 33/17; mean age, 58 years) who underwent liver magnetic resonance imaging at 3.0 T including 2 MRE sequences, 2D GRE, and 2D SE-EPI (acquisition time 56 vs 16 seconds, respectively). Image quality scores were assessed by 2 independent observers based on wave propagation and organ coverage on the confidence map (range, 0–15). A third observer measured LS on stiffness maps (in kilopascal). Mean LS values, regions of interest size (based on confidence map), and image quality scores between SE-EPI and GRE-MRE were compared using paired nonparametric Wilcoxon test. Reproducibility of LS values between the 2 sequences was assessed using intraclass coefficient correlation, coefficient of variation, and Bland-Altman limits of agreement. T2* effect on image quality was assessed using partial Spearman correlation.ResultsThere were 4 cases of failure with GRE-MRE and none with SE-EPI-MRE. Image quality scores and region of interest size were significantly higher using SE-EPI-MRE versus GRE-MRE (P < 0.0001 for both measurements and observers). Liver stiffness measurements were not significantly different between the 2 sequences (3.75 ± 1.87 kPa vs 3.55 ± 1.51 kPa, P = 0.062), were significantly correlated (intraclass coefficient correlation, 0.909), and had excellent reproducibility (coefficient of variation, 10.2%; bias, 0.023; Bland-Altman limits of agreement, −1.19; 1.66 kPa). Image quality scores using GRE-MRE were significantly correlated with T2* while there was no correlation for SE-EPI-MRE.ConclusionsOur data suggest that SE-EPI-MRE may be a better alternative to GRE-MRE. The diagnostic performance of SE-EPI-MRE for detection of liver fibrosis needs to be assessed in a future study.

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