Magnetization transfer-based 3D visualization of foot peripheral nerves
PURPOSE: To investigate magnetization transfer (MT) effects as a new source of contrast for imaging and tracking of peripheral foot nerves. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Two sets of 3D spoiled gradient-echo images acquired with and without a saturation pulse were used to generate MT ratio (MTR) maps of 260 μm in-plane resolution for eight volunteers at 3T. Scan parameters were adjusted to minimize signal loss due to T2 dephasing, and a dedicated coil was used to improve the inherently low signal-to-noise ratio of small voxels. Resulting MTR values in foot nerves were compared with those in surrounding muscle tissue. RESULTS: Average MTR values for muscle (45.5 ± 1.4%) and nerve (21.4 ± 3.1%) were significantly different (P < 0.0001). In general, the difference in MTR values was sufficiently large to allow for intensity-based segmentation and tracking of foot nerves in individual subjects. This procedure was termed MT-based 3D visualization. CONCLUSION: The MTR serves as a new source of contrast for imaging of peripheral foot nerves and provides a means for high spatial resolution tracking of these structures. The proposed methodology is directly applicable on standard clinical MR scanners and could be applied to systemic pathologies, such as diabetes. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.