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NMR Biomed. 2014 Sep;27(9):1129-34. doi: 10.1002/nbm.3161. Epub 2014 Jul 26.

Rapid and robust pulmonary proton ZTE imaging in the mouse.

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Institute for Biomedical Engineering, University and ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Pulmonary MRI is challenging because of the low proton density and rapid transverse relaxation in the lung associated with microscopic magnetic field inhomogeneities caused by tissue-air interfaces. Therefore, low signal is obtained in gradient and spin echo proton images. Alternatively, non-proton MRI using hyperpolarized gases or radial techniques with ultrashort or zero TE have been proposed to image the lung. Also with the latter approach, the general challenge remains to provide full coverage of the lung at sufficient spatial resolution, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and image quality within a reasonable scan time. This task is further aggravated by physiological motion and is particularly demanding in small animals, such as mice. In this work, three-dimensional (3D) zero echo time (ZTE) imaging is employed for efficient pulmonary MRI. Four protocols with different averaging and respiratory triggering schemes are developed and compared with respect to image quality and SNR. To address the critical issue of background signal in ZTE images, a subtraction approach is proposed, providing images virtually free of disturbing signal from nearby hardware parts. The protocols are tested for pulmonary MRI in six mice at 4.7 T, consistently providing images of high quality with a 3D isotropic resolution of 313 µm and SNR values in the lung between 8.0 and 18.5 within scan times between 1 min 21 s and 4 min 44 s. A generally high robustness of the ZTE approach against motion is observed, whilst respiratory triggering further improves the SNR and visibility of image details. The developed techniques are expected to enable efficient preclinical animal studies in the lung and will also be of importance for human applications. Further improvements are expected from radiofrequency (RF) coils with increased SNR and reduced background signal.


aliasing; background suppression; lung MRI; respiratory triggering; short T2; signal-to-noise ratio (SNR); zero TE

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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