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High field MRI in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis: high field-high yield?

Following the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been increasingly incorporated into the clinical setting. Especially in the field of neuroimaging, the number of high field MRI applications has been increased dramatically. Taking advantage on increased signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and chemical shift, higher magnetic field strengths offer new perspectives particularly in brain imaging and also challenges in terms of several technical and physical consequences. Over the past few years, many applications of high field MRI in patients with suspected and definite multiple sclerosis (MS) have been reported including conventional and quantitative MRI methods. Conventional pulse sequences at 3 T offers higher lesion detection rates when compared to 1.5 T, particularly in anatomic regions which are important for the diagnosis of patients with MS. MR spectroscopy at 3 T is characterized by an improved spectral resolution due to increased chemical shift allowing a better quantification of metabolites. It detects significant axonal damage already in patients presenting with clinically isolated syndromes and can quantify metabolites of special interest such as glutamate which is technically difficult to quantify at lower field strengths. Furthermore, the higher susceptibility and SNR offer advantages in the field of functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging. The recently introduced new generation of ultra-high field systems beyond 3 T allows scanning in submillimeter resolution and gives new insights into in vivo MS pathology on MRI. The objectives of this article are to review the current knowledge and level of evidence concerning the application of high field MRI in MS and to give some ideas of research perspectives in the future.

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