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To assess the usefulness of MRI and determine which MR sequence is most effective for diagnosing the mild forms of acute pancreatitis.Forty subjects (20 normal volunteers and 20 patients with a mild form of acute pancreatitis) underwent MRI with fat-suppressed T1-weighted fast low-angle shot (FLASH), half-Fourier acquisition single-shot turbo spin-echo (HASTE), and TSE short TI inversion recovery (TSE-STIR) sequences. The 20 patients with a mild form of acute pancreatitis underwent multidetector CT (MDCT) and MRI within a 24-hour interval. We qualitatively analyzed all of the images by assessing inflammatory changes in the pancreas and peripancreatic fat. We quantitatively compared differences in pancreas-liver contrast between the control and patient groups for each MR sequence by measuring the signal intensities of the pancreas and liver.TSE-STIR was the best of the four modalities for delineating peripancreatic and pancreatic inflammation (P < 0.01). TSE-STIR depicted definitive peripancreatic and pancreatic inflammation in 18 and 15 patients, respectively. MDCT depicted only three cases of peripancreatic inflammation. TSE-STIR was also produced the best the best quantitative results of the MR sequences (P = 0.09).MRI is helpful for diagnosing the mild forms of acute pancreatitis. We recommend the use of TSE-STIR imaging as part of the routine protocol for evaluating pancreatitis.