Regional anisotropy of airspace orientation in the lung as assessed with hyperpolarized helium-3 diffusion MRI

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To evaluate regional anisotropy of lung-airspace orientation by assessing the dependence of helium-3 (3He) apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values on the direction of diffusion sensitization at two field strengths.

Materials and Methods:

Hyperpolarized 3He diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the lung was performed at 0.43T and 1.5T in 12 healthy volunteers. A gradient-echo pulse sequence was used with a bipolar diffusion-sensitization gradient applied separately along three orthogonal directions. ADC maps, median ADC values, and signal-to-noise ratios were calculated from the diffusion-weighted images. Two readers scored the ADC maps for increased values at lung margins, major fissures, or within focal central regions.


ADC values were found to depend on the direction of diffusion sensitization (P < 0.01, except for craniocaudal vs. anteroposterior directions at 1.5T) and were increased at the lateral and medial surfaces for left-right diffusion sensitization (12 of 12 subjects); at the apex and base (9 of 12), and along the major fissure (8 of 12), for craniocaudal diffusion sensitization; and at the most anterior and posterior lung (10 of 12) for anteroposterior diffusion sensitization. Median ADC values at 0.43T (0.201 ± 0.017, left-right; 0.193 ± 0.019, craniocaudal; and 0.187 ± 0.017 cm2/s, anteroposterior) were slightly lower than those at 1.5T (0.205 ± 0.017, 0.197 ± 0.017 and 0.194 ± 0.016 cm2/s, respectively; P < 0.05).


These findings indicate that diffusion-weighted hyperpolarized 3He MRI can detect regional anisotropy of lung-airspace orientation, including that associated with preferential orientation of terminal airways near pleural surfaces. J. MAGN. RESON. IMAGING 2015;42:1777–1782.

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