Flow-sensitive 4D MRI of the thoracic aorta: comparison of image quality, quantitative flow, and wall parameters at 1.5 T and 3 T

Christoph Strecker, Andreas Harloff, Wolf Wallis, Michael Markl
Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging: JMRI 2012, 36 (5): 1097-103

PURPOSE: To evaluate the effect of field strength on flow-sensitive 4D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the thoracic aorta. A volunteer study at 1.5 T and 3 T was conducted to compare phase-contrast MR angiography (MRA) and 3D flow visualization quality as well as quantification of aortic hemodynamics.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Ten healthy volunteers were examined by flow-sensitive 4D MRI at both 1.5 T and 3 T MRI with identical imaging parameters (TE/TR = 6/5.1 msec, spatial/temporal resolution ≈2 mm/40.8 msec). Analysis included assessment of image quality of derived aortic 3D phase contrast (PC) angiography and 3D flow visualization (semiquantitative grading on a 0-2 scale, two blinded observers) and quantification of blood flow velocities, net flow per cardiac cycle, wall shear stress (WSS), and velocity noise.

RESULTS: Quality of 3D blood flow visualization (average grading = 1.8 ± 0.4 at 3 T vs. 1.1 ± 0.7 at 1.5 T) and the depiction of aortic lumen geometry by 3D PC-MRA (1.7 ± 0.5 vs. 1.2 ± 0.6) were significantly (P < 0.01) improved at 3 T while velocity noise was significantly higher (P < 0.01) at 1.5 T. Velocity quantification resulted in minimally altered (0.05 m/s, 3 mL/cycle and 0.01 N/m(2)) but not statistically different (P = 0.40, P = 0.39, and P = 0.82) systolic peak velocities, net flow, and WSS for 1.5 T compared to 3 T.

CONCLUSION: Flow-sensitive 4D MRI at 3 T provided improved image quality without additional artifacts related to higher fields. Imaging at 1.5 T MRI, which is more widely available, was also feasible and provided information on aortic 3D hemodynamics of moderate quality with identical performance regarding quantitative analysis.

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