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Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2017 May;24(3):162-168. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2017.03.006.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Kidneys-With and Without Gadolinium-Based Contrast.

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Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, University of Utah, 729 Arapeen Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84108. Electronic address:


Assessment of renal function with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been actively explored in the past decade. In this review, we introduce the principle of MRI and review recent progress of MRI methods (contrast enhanced and noncontrast) in assessing renal function. Contrast-enhanced MRI using ultra-low dose of gadolinium-based agent has been validated for measuring single-kidney glomerular filtration rate and renal plasma flow accurately. For routine functional test, contrast-enhanced MRI may not replace the simple serum-creatinine method. However, for patients with renal diseases, it is often worthy to perform MRI to accurately monitor renal function, particularly for the diseased kidney. As contrast-enhanced MRI is already an established clinical tool for characterizing renal structural abnormalities, including renal mass and ureteral obstruction, it is possible to adapt the clinical MRI protocol to measure single-kidney glomerular filtration rate and renal plasma flow, as demonstrated by recent studies. What makes MRI unique is the promise of its noncontrast methods. These methods include arterial spin labeling for tissue perfusion, blood oxygen-level dependent for blood and tissue oxygenation, and diffusion-weighted imaging for water diffusion. For each method, we reviewed recent findings and summarized challenges.


Diffusion coefficient; Glomerular filtration rat; Magnetic resonance imaging; Tissue oxygenation; Tissue perfusion

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