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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Feb;112(4):651-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01295.2011. Epub 2011 Dec 8.

Evaluating bronchodilator effects in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease using diffusion-weighted hyperpolarized helium-3 magnetic resonance imaging.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, The University of Western Ontario, Canada.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the regional effects of bronchodilator administration in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using hyperpolarized helium-3 ((3)He) MRI apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC). Ten COPD ex-smokers provided written, informed consent and underwent diffusion-weighted, hyperpolarized (3)He MRI, spirometry, and plethysmography before and 25 ± 2 min after bronchodilator administration. Pre- and postsalbutamol whole-lung (WL) ADC maps were generated and registered together to identify the lung regions containing the (3)He signal at both time points, and mean ADC within those regions of interest (ROI) was determined for a measurement of previously ventilated ROI ADC (ADC(P)). Lung ROI with (3)He signal at both time points was used as a binary mask on postsalbutamol WL ADC maps to obtain an ADC measurement for newly ventilated ROI (ADC(N)). Postsalbutamol, no significant differences were detected in WL ADC (P = 0.516). There were no significant differences between ADC(N) and ADC(P) postsalbutamol (P = 1.00), suggesting that the ADC(N) lung regions were not more emphysematous than the lung ROI participating in ventilation before bronchodilator administration. Postsalbutamol, a statistically significant decrease in ADC(P) (P = 0.01) was detected, and there were significant differences between ADC(P) in the most anterior and most posterior image slices (P = 0.02), suggesting a reduction in regional gas trapping following bronchodilator administration. Regional evaluation of tissue microstructure using hyperpolarized (3)He MRI ADC provides insights into lung alterations that accompany improvements in regional (3)He gas distribution after bronchodilator administration.

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