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Clin Neuroradiol. 2015 Mar;25(1):41-8. doi: 10.1007/s00062-013-0279-x. Epub 2014 Jan 3.

MR angiography at 3 Tesla to assess proximal internal carotid artery stenoses: contrast-enhanced or 3D time-of-flight MR angiography?

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Department of Neuroradiology, Neurocentre, University Hospital Freiburg, Breisacher Strasse 64, 79106, Freiburg, Germany.



The aim of this study was to compare the diagnostic accuracy of 3D time-of-flight (TOF-MRA) and contrast-enhanced (CE-MRA) magnetic resonance angiography at 3 T for detection and quantification of proximal high-grade stenosis using multidetector computed tomography angiography (MDCTA) as reference standard.


The institutional ethics committee approved this prospective study. A total of 41 patients suspected of having internal carotid artery (ICA) stenosis underwent both MDCTA and MRA. CE-MRA and TOF-MRA were performed using a 3.0-T imager with a dedicated eight-element cervical coil. ICA stenoses were measured according to the North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial criteria and categorized as 0-25 % (minimal), 25-50 % (mild), 50-69 % (moderate), 70-99 % (high grade), and 100 % (occlusion). Sensitivity and specificity for the detection of high-grade ICA stenoses (70-99 %) and ICA occlusions were determined. In addition, intermodality agreement was assessed with κ-statistics for detection of high-grade ICA stenoses (70-99 %) and ICA occlusions.


A total of 80 carotid arteries of 41 patients were reviewed. Two previously stented ICAs were excluded from analysis. On MDCTA, 7 ICAs were occluded, 12 ICAs presented with and 63 without a high-grade ICA stenosis (70-99 %). For detecting 70-99 % stenosis, both 3D TOF-MRA and CE-MRA were 91.7 % sensitive and 98.5 % specific, respectively. Both MRA techniques were highly sensitive (100 %), and specific (CE-MRA, 100 %; TOF-MRA, 98.7 %) for the detection of ICA occlusion. However, TOF-MRA misclassified one high-grade stenosis as occlusion. Intermodality agreement for detection of 70-99 % ICA stenoses was excellent between TOF-MRA and CE-MRA [κ = 0.902, 95 % confidence interval (CI) = 0.769-1.000], TOF-MRA and MDCTA (κ = 0.902, 95 % CI = 0.769-1.000), and CE-MRA and MDCTA (κ = 0.902, 95 % CI = 0.769-1.000).


Both 3D TOF-MRA and CE-MRA at 3 T are reliable tools for detecting high-grade proximal ICA stenoses (70-99 %). 3D TOF-MRA might misclassify pseudo-occlusions as complete occlusions. If there are no contraindications for CE-MRA, CE-MRA is recommended as primary MR imaging modality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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