Spinal cord lesions in patients with multiple sclerosis: comparison of MR pulse sequences

K Hittmair, R Mallek, D Prayer, E G Schindler, H Kollegger
AJNR. American Journal of Neuroradiology 1996, 17 (8): 1555-65

PURPOSE: To compare T2-weighted conventional spin-echo (CSE), fast spin-echo (FSE), shorttau inversion recovery (STIR) FSE, and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) FSE sequences in the assessment of cervical multiple sclerosis plaques.

METHODS: Twenty patients with clinically confirmed multiple sclerosis and signs of cervical cord involvement were examined on a 1.5-T MR system. Sagittal images of T2-weighted and proton density-weighted CSE sequences, T2-weighted FSE sequences with two different sets of sequence parameters, STIR-FSE sequences, and FLAIR-FSE sequences were compared by two independent observers. In addition, contrast-to-noise measurements were obtained.

RESULTS: Spinal multiple sclerosis plaques were seen best on STIR-FSE images, which yielded the highest lesion contrast. Among the T2-weighted sequences, the FSE technique provided better image quality than did the CSE technique, but lesion visibility was improved only with a repetition time/echo time of 2500/90; parameters of 3000/150 provided poor lesion contrast but the best myelographic effect and overall image quality. CSE images were degraded by prominent image noise; FLAIR-FSE images showed poor lesion contrast and strong cerebrospinal fluid pulsation artifacts.

CONCLUSIONS: The STIR-FSE sequence is the best choice for assessment of spinal multiple sclerosis plaques. For T2-weighted FSE sequences, shorter echo times are advantageous for spinal cord imaging, long echo times are superior for extramedullary and extradural disease. FLAIR-FSE sequences do not contribute much to spinal imaging for multiple sclerosis detection.

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