Magic angle effects in MR neurography

Karyn E Chappell, Matthew D Robson, Amanda Stonebridge-Foster, Alan Glover, Joanna M Allsop, Andreanna D Williams, Amy H Herlihy, Jill Moss, Philip Gishen, Graeme M Bydder
AJNR. American Journal of Neuroradiology 2004, 25 (3): 431-40

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Magic angle effects are well recognized in MR imaging of tendons and ligaments, but have received virtually no attention in MR neurography. We investigated the hypothesis that signal intensity from peripheral nerves is increased when the nerve's orientation to the constant magnetic induction field (B(0)) approaches 55 degrees (the magic angle).

METHODS: Ten volunteers were examined with their peripheral nerves at different orientations to B(0) to detect any changes in signal intensity and provide data to estimate T2. Two patients with rheumatoid arthritis also had their median nerves examined at 0 degrees and 55 degrees.

RESULTS: When examined with a short TI inversion-recovery sequence with different TEs, the median nerve showed a 46-175% increase in signal intensity between 0 degrees and 55 degrees and an increase in mean T2 from 47.2 to 65.8 msec. When examined in 5 degrees to 10 degrees increments from 0 degrees to 90 degrees, the median nerve signal intensity changed in a manner consistent with the magic angle effect. No significant change was observed in skeletal muscle. Ulnar and sciatic nerves also showed changes in signal intensity depending on their orientation to B(0). Components of the brachial plexus were orientated at about 55 degrees to B(0) and showed a higher signal intensity than that of nerves in the upper arm that were nearly parallel to B(0). A reduction in the change in signal intensity in the median nerve with orientation was observed in the two patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

CONCLUSION: Signal intensity of peripheral nerves changes with orientation to B(0). This is probably the result of the magic angle effect from the highly ordered, linearly orientated collagen within them. Differences in signal intensity with orientation may simulate disease and be a source of diagnostic confusion.

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