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Epileptic Disord. 2003 Mar;5(1):3-20.

MR imaging of epilepsy: state of the art at 1.5 T and potential of 3 T.

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Brain Research Institute, Heidelberg, Australia.


Shortly after being introduced in the nineteen eighties, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) became a key tool for the investigation of patients with epilepsy, due to its ability to acquire high quality images. The strength of the magnetic field of a scanner is measured in tesla (T). This review addresses the clinical and research potential in epilepsy of MR imaging at 1.5 T and 3 T. A typical clinical scanning protocol at 1.5 T for a patient with refractory epilepsy may include T1- and T2-weighted imaging, fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) imaging, and a 3D volume acquisition sequence. A research protocol may add quantification of structural imaging, such as volumetric assessment and T2-relaxometry, together with functional measures, such as MR-spectroscopy, functional MRI and diffusion weighted sequences. MR-spectroscopy assesses the metabolites of the seizure focus and other brain areas. Functional MRI allows localisation of cognitive and sensori-motor function and the ability to assess the spatial relationship of these functions to the seizure focus. Whereas these techniques can be performed at 1.5 T, particularly MR-spectroscopy and functional MRI benefit from increased magnetic field-strength. Higher magnetic field-strength is associated with a higher signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). The increased SNR can allow shorter imaging times for a given resolution, higher resolution for a given imaging time, or combination of both. The use of higher magnetic field-strengths is therefore indicated for the (fast) imaging of ill subjects, for long protocols, including structural, metabolic and functional imaging, and for novel applications, such as continuous EEG recording and functional MRI for the detection of the seizure focus. Disadvantages of MR imaging in epilepsy at a high field-strength of 3 T and above are, apart from engineering and technical challenges, the greater energy deposition into tissue and increased susceptibility to artefacts. So far, magnets of 3 T and above have been used mainly for research applications, however the benefits of high field-strength for MR spectroscopy and functional MRI, and the usefulness of these techniques for the investigation of epilepsy patients are obvious incentives for the use of 3 T systems in routine clinical investigations.

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