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J Neuroimaging. 2002 Apr;12(2):164-71.

Magnetic resonance imaging in patients diagnosed with papilledema: a comparison of 6 different high-resolution T1- and T2(*)-weighted 3-dimensional and 2-dimensional sequences.

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  • 1Department of Diagnostic Radiology, University Hospital of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, D-93042 Regensburg, Germany.



To evaluate visualization and signal characteristics of macroscopic changes in patients with ophthalmologically stated papilledema and to find a suitable high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol.


Nine consecutive patients with 12 ophthalmologically stated papilledemas underwent MRI of the head and orbits, which consisted of the following high-resolution sequences: 3-dimensional (3D), T2*-weighted (T2*w) constructive interference in steady-state sequence (CISS); 3D, T1-weighted (T1w) magnetization prepared-rapid gradient echo sequence (MP-RAGE) (with and without intravenous contrast medium); transverse 3D and 2-dimensional (2D) (2 mm), T2-weighted (T2w) turbo spin echo (TSE); transverse 2D (2 mm), contrast-enhanced T1w TSE with fat-suppression technique; and transverse 2D (5 mm), T2w TSE. A quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the papilla, optic nerve, optic nerve sheath, optic chiasm, and the brain was performed. The 6 high-resolution sequences were compared.


The elevation of the optic disc into the optic globe in ophthalmologically stated papilledema was best visualized in T2w, 3D CISS sequence. The pathological contrast enhancement was best seen in T1w contrast-enhanced 2D TSE sequence with fat-suppression technique. The mean width of the optic nerve sheath directly behind the globe was 7.54 mm (+/- 1.05 mm) in the pathological eyes, compared to 5.52 mm (+/- 1.11 mm) in the normal eyes. In all patients, the cerebral indices calculated showed no signs of increased intracranial pressure or other abnormalities changing the volume of the brain or ventricles. The contrast of the orbital fat versus the optic nerve sheath, the optic nerve sheath versus the surrounding cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the surrounding CSF versus the optic nerve, the optic chiasm versus the CSF, and the optic papilla versus the optic globe were best visualized in the 3D, T2*w CISS sequence. An enhancement of the swollen optic nerve head was best seen in all 12 cases in the T1w contrast-enhanced 2D TSE sequence with fat-suppression technique.


An MRI protocol consisting of a 5-mm transverse T2w TSE sequence; a T2*w, 3D CISS sequence; a T1w, 3D MP-RAGE sequence with and without contrast medium; and a transverse T1w, (2-mm) 2D TSE sequence with fat-suppression technique with intravenous contrast medium is suitable to visualize the macroscopic changes in papilledema. In addition, this combination is an excellent technique for the examination of the orbits and the brain.

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