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Eur Radiol. 2006 Apr;16(4):915-21. Epub 2005 Dec 20.

FLAIR imaging for multiple sclerosis: a comparative MR study at 1.5 and 3.0 Tesla.

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Department of Clinical Radiology, University of Muenster, Germany.


The purpose of this study was (1) to identify the optimal TE for FLAIR-imaging at 3.0 T assessing three different echo times qualitatively and quantitatively and (2) to evaluate the diagnostic efficacy of high-field 3.0-T FLAIR imaging in comparison to conventional 1.5-T MRI in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Twenty-two patients with clinically definite MS underwent axial FLAIR imaging at 1.5 and 3.0 T. In 15 of these patients further FLAIR images with a TE of 100, 120 and 140 ms were acquired at 3.0 T. Imaging protocols were modified for 3.0 T using the increased SNR to acquire more and thinner slices while maintaining a comparable scan time. FLAIR images of either different TEs or different field strengths were ranked for each patient qualitatively by two observers. Signal intensity measurements were obtained in the gray and white matter, CSF and representative white matter lesions (WML). At 3.0 T, a TE of 100 and 120 ms proved superior in all qualitative categories when compared to 140 ms. In the quantitative assessment CNR of WML was highest for 120 ms (CNR: 19.8), intermediate for 100 ms (17.2) and lowest for 140 ms (15.3) (P<0.003). For lesion conspicuity and overall image quality, 3.0 T was judged superior to 1.5 T, whereas no difference was found for gray-white differentiation and image noise. With regard to artifacts, 3.0 T was inferior to 1.5 T. The CNR for WML was slightly lower at 3.0 T, but the difference was not significant (22.6 vs. 28.0, P=ns). However, significantly more WML were detected at 3.0 T than at 1.5 T (483 vs. 341, P<0.0001). The optimal echo time for FLAIR imaging at 3.0 T is 120 ms due to the significantly higher CNR of WML. By trading the higher SNR at 3.0 T for better spatial resolution, nearly the same CNR level could be maintained, increasing lesion detectability at 3.0 T compared to 1.5 T. Thus, high-field MRI may further strengthen the role of MRI as the most sensitive paraclinical test for the early diagnosis of MS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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