Quantification and visualization of flow in the Circle of Willis: Time-resolved three-dimensional phase contrast MRI at 7 T compared with 3 T



The assessment of both geometry and hemodynamics of the intracranial arteries has important diagnostic value in internal carotid occlusion, sickle cell disease, and aneurysm development. Provided that signal to noise ratio (SNR) and resolution are high, these factors can be measured with time-resolved three-dimensional phase contrast MRI. However, within a given scan time duration, an increase in resolution causes a decrease in SNR and vice versa, hampering flow quantification and visualization. To study the benefits of higher SNR at 7 T, three-dimensional phase contrast MRI in the Circle of Willis was performed at 3 T and 7 T in five volunteers. Results showed that the SNR at 7 T was roughly 2.6 times higher than at 3 T. Therefore, segmentation of small vessels such as the anterior and posterior communicating arteries succeeded more frequently at 7 T. Direction of flow and smoothness of streamlines in the anterior and posterior communicating arteries were more pronounced at 7 T. Mean velocity magnitude values in the vessels of the Circle of Willis were higher at 3 T due to noise compared to 7 T. Likewise, areas of the vessels were lower at 3 T. In conclusion, the gain in SNR at 7 T compared to 3 T allows for improved flow visualization and quantification in intracranial arteries. Magn Reson Med, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.