Rotator cuff tendon assessment using magic-angle insensitive 3D ultrashort echo time cones magnetization transfer (UTE-Cones-MT) imaging and modeling with histological correlation

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Rotator cuff tendons (RCTs) are challenging to image due to the “magic angle effect” and their short T2.


To assess the degree of magic angle sensitivity of human RCTs and to utilize a 3D ultrashort echo time Cones sequence with magnetization transfer preparation (UTE-Cones-MT) and two-pool quantitative MT modeling with histological correlation. We hypothesized that MT parameters would be less sensitive to the magic angle compared with conventional T2 measurements.

Study Type

Prospective imaging pathologic correlation.


Twenty cadaveric rotator cuff tendons were imaged at five sample orientations ranging from 0–90° relative to the B0 field.

Field Strength/Sequence

3T/3D UTE-Cones-MT and Carr–Purcell–Meiboom–Gill (CPMG).


Two-pool quantitative MT modeling parameters and T2 values were calculated in regions of interest drawn by a medical physicist. Histopathological analysis was performed and mild and severe tendinopathy groups were assigned by a histopathologist and histotechnician.

Statistical Tests

Coefficients of variations (CVs) were calculated for measures between the different orientations and group means were compared for each measure.


CVs of T2 and macromolecular fractions between orientations were 26.14 ± 16.82% and 6.18 ± 2.77% (mean ± SD), respectively. T2 measurements at 0°, 27°, 70°, and 90° showed significant differences between the two histological groups (P = 0.004, 0.008, 0.003, and 0.015, respectively), but not at 55° (P = 0.611). Mean T2 value ranges between orientations for the mild and severe tendinopathy groups were 15.27–30.32 msec and 20.81–35.85 msec, respectively, showing overlap despite statistically significant differences (P = 0.003). Macromolecular fractions at all angles showed significant differences between the two groups (P < 0.0001). Mean fraction ranges between orientations for the mild and severe tendinopathy groups were 14.32–17.17% and 10.00–13.75% respectively (P < 0.0001) with no overlap.

Data Conclusion

Compared with T2, macromolecular fraction obtained with the 3D UTE-Cones-MT technique is resistant to the magic angle effect and is more sensitive to RCT degeneration.

Data Conclusion

Level of Evidence: 1

Data Conclusion

Technical Efficacy: Stage 2

Data Conclusion

J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2017.

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