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Invest Radiol. 2009 Sep;44(9):566-71. doi: 10.1097/RLI.0b013e3181b4c1e8.

Comparison of 1.5 and 3 T BOLD MR to study oxygenation of kidney cortex and medulla in human renovascular disease.

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Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Imaging of the kidney using blood oxygen level dependent MR presents a major opportunity to examine differences in tissue oxygenation within the cortex and medulla applicable to human disease. We sought to define the differences between regions within kidneys and to optimize selection of regions of interest for study with 1.5 and 3 Tesla systems.


Studies in 38 subjects were performed under baseline conditions and after administration of furosemide intravenously to examine changes in R2* as a result of suppressing oxygen consumption related to medullary tubular solute transport. These studies were carried out in patients with atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis (n = 24 kidneys) or essential hypertension or nonstenotic kidneys (n = 39). All patients but one were treated with agents to block the renin angiotensin system (ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers). For each kidney, 3 levels (upper pole, hilum, and lower pole) were examined, including 3 individual segments (anterior, lateral, and posterior).


Low basal R2* levels in kidney cortex (12.06 +/- 0.84 s(-1)) at 1.5 Tesla reflected robust blood flow and oxygenation and agreed closely with values obtained at 3.0 Tesla (13.62 +/- 0.56 s(-1), NS). Coefficients of variation ranged between 15% and 20% between segments and levels at both field strengths. By contrast, inner medullary R2* levels were higher at 3 T (31.66 +/- 0.74 s(-1)) as compared with 1.5 T (22.19 +/- 1.52 s(-1), P < 0.01). Medullary R2* values fell after furosemide administration reflecting reduced deoxyhemoglobin levels associated with blocked energy-dependent transport. The fall in medullary R2* at 3.0 Tesla (-12.61 +/- 0.97 s(-1)) was greater than observed at 1.5 T (-6.07 +/- 1.38 s(-1), P < 0.05). Cortical R2* levels remained low after furosemide and did not vary with field strength. Correlations between measurements of defined cortical and medullary regions of interest within kidneys were greater at each sampling level and segment at 3.0 T as compared to 1.5 T. For patients studied with 3.0 T, furosemide administration induced a lesser fall in R2* in poststenotic kidneys at 3.0 T (-10.61 +/- 1.61 s(-1)) versus nonstenotic kidneys (-13.21 +/- 0.72 s(-1), P < 0.05). This difference was not evident in comparisons made at 1.5 T. The magnitude of furosemide-suppressible oxygen consumption at 3.0 T (-43%) corresponded more closely with reported experimental differences observed during direct measurement with tissue electrodes (45%-50%) than changes measured at 1.5 T.


These results indicate that blood oxygen level dependent MR measurements at high field strength can better distinguish discrete cortical and inner medullary regions of the kidney and approximate measured differences in oxygen tension. Maneuvers that reduce oxygen consumption related to tubular solute transport allow functional evaluation of the interstitial compartment as a function of tissue oxygenation. Impaired response to alterations in oxygen consumption can be detected at 3 T more effectively than at 1.5 T and may provide real-time tools to examine developing parenchymal injury associated with impaired oxygenation.

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