Positive Contrast MR Imaging of Tendons, Ligaments, and Menisci by Subtraction of Signals From a Double Echo Steady State Sequence (Sub-DESS)

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Abstract

Purpose

To improve the visualization of fibrous tissues as tendons, ligaments and fibrocartilage structures as menisci by positive contrast using a new 3D Double Echo Steady State (DESS) sequence.

Methods

The proposed 3D DESS sequence works with separate acquisition of a first echo with an echo time (TE1) of 1.2 ms followed by a more heavily T2-weighted second echo recorded at time TE2. Subtraction of images from both echoes leads to positive signal from fibrous tissues, whereas in other tissues as musculature and fat the subtraction signal nearly vanishes due to almost similar signal strength in both echoes. Systematic measurements in healthy volunteers with different sets of pulse repetition time (TR), TE1, readout bandwidth and flip angle were performed to determine optimal sequence parameters.

Results

The presented 3D sequence with Cartesian readout requires relatively short measuring time, provides reasonable signal-to-noise ratio and can be easily implemented in protocols for clinical musculoskeletal MR imaging. Degenerative changes or tears of tendons, ligaments and fibrocartilage are known to cause increased water content and therefore prolongation of transverse relaxation times, which leads to reduced signal intensities in the “subtraction images.”

Conclusion

Positive contrast of fibrous tissue as demonstrated by the proposed sub-DESS approach provides improved conspicuity and allows for three-dimensional reconstruction especially of structures with curved geometry. Magn Reson Med 71:294–301, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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