Purpose: The morphological and hemodynamic evaluations of neurovascular diseases treated with stents would benefit from noninvasive imaging techniques such as 3D time-of-flight MRI (3D-TOF) and 3D phase contrast MRI (3D-PCMRI). For this purpose, a comprehensive evaluation of the stent artifacts and their impact on the flow measurement is critical.
Methods: The artifacts of a representative sample of neurovascular stents were evaluated in vitro with 3D-TOF and 3D-PCMRI sequences. The dependency of the artifacts with respect to the orientation was analyzed for each stent design as well as the impact on the flow measurement accuracy. Furthermore, the 3D-PCMRI data of four patients carrying intracranial aneurysms treated with flow diverter stents were analyzed as illustrative examples.
Results: The stent artifacts were mainly confined to the stent lumen therefore indicating the leading role of shielding effect. The influence of the stent design and its orientation with respect to the transmitting MR coils were highlighted. The artifacts impacted the 3D-PCMRI velocities mainly in the low magnitude domains, which were discarded from the analysis ensuring reliable near-stent velocities. The feasibility of in-stent flow measurements was confirmed in vivo on two patients who showed strong correlation between flow and geometric features. In two other patients, the consistency of out-of-stent velocities was verified qualitatively through intraaneurysmal streamlines except when susceptibility artifacts occurred.
Conclusion: The present results motivate the conception of low inductance or non-conductive stent design. Furthermore, the feasibility of near-stent 3D-PCMRI measurements opens the door to clinical applications like the post-treatment follow-up of stenoses or intracranial aneurysms.