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Keywords:

  • large flip angle imaging; spin echo; microscopy; trabecular bone

Abstract

A rapid steady-state 3D spin-echo imaging pulse sequence, based on the principle of nutating the spins by an angle greater than 90°, has been designed and implemented on a clinical 1.5-T whole-body MR scanner. The pulse sequence, denoted fast large-angle spin-echo (FLASE), has been optimized for high-resolution imaging of tissues with short T2 and T2*. Features of FLASE include a minimum-phase Shinnar-Le Roux excitation pulse and distribution of phase- and slice-encoding gradients before and after the 180° refocusing pulse to minimize the critical time delay between inversion and restoration of the residual longitudinal magnetization and for minimizing echo time. A Bloch equation analysis, corroborated by experimental data, shows FLASE signal-to-noise to be superior to its closest analog, 3D rapid spin-echo excitation (RASEE) (Jara et al., Magn Reson Medicine 29, 528 (1993)), and 3D gradient-recalled acquisition in steady state (GRASS). It is demonstrated that with judicious RF phase-cycling and steady state operation, FLASE can produce high-quality microimages free of intravoxel phase dispersion from susceptibility-induced background gradients. The performance of the method is exemplified with ultra high-resolution images of trabecular bone in vitro and in vivo In the human calcaneus and wrist at voxel sizes as low as 98 × 98 × 200 μm3. Finally, the contrast behavior of refocused FLASE can be altered by disrupting the steady state analogous to gradient echo imaging.