Evaluation of optimized breath-hold and free-breathing 3D ultrashort echo time contrast agent-free MRI of the human lung

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Abstract

Purpose:

To evaluate an optimized stack of radials ultrashort echo time (UTE) 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequence for breath-hold and free-breathing imaging of the human lung.

Materials and Methods:

A 3D stack of ultrashort echo time radials trajectory was optimized for coronal and axial lower-resolution breath-hold and higher-resolution free-breathing scans using Bloch simulations. The sequence was evaluated in 10 volunteers, without the use of contrast agents. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) mean and 95% confidence interval (CI) were determined from separate signal and noise images in a semiautomated fashion. The four scanning schemes were evaluated for significant differences in image quality using Student's t-test. Ten clinical patients were scanned with the sequence and findings were compared with concomitant computed tomography (CT) in nine patients. Breath-hold 3D spokes images were compared with 3D stack of radials in five volunteers. A Mann–Whitney U-test was performed to test significance in both cases.

Results:

Breath-hold imaging of the entire lung in volunteers was performed with SNR (mean = 42.5 [CI]: 35.5–49.5; mean = 34.3 [CI]: 28.6–40) in lung parenchyma for coronal and axial scans, respectively, which can be used as a quick scout scan. Longer respiratory triggered free-breathing scan enabled high-resolution UTE scanning with mean SNR of 14.2 ([CI]: 12.9–15.5) and 9.2 ([CI]: 8.2–10.2) for coronal and axial scans, respectively. Axial free-breathing scans showed significantly higher image quality (P = 0.008) than the three other scanning schemes. The mean score for comparison with CT was 1.67 (score 0: n = 0; 1: n = 3; 2: n = 6). There was no significant difference between CT and MRI (P = 0.25). 3D stack of radials images were significantly better than 3D spokes images (P < 0.001).

Conclusion:

The optimized 3D stack of radials trajectory was shown to provide high-quality MR images of the lung parenchyma without the use of MRI contrast agents. The sequence may offer the possibility of breath-hold imaging and provides greater flexibility in trading off slice thickness and parallel imaging for scan time. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2016;43:1230–1238.

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