We have applied the Cavalieri method of modern design stereology with magnetic resonance imaging for estimating the volume of whole-body muscle and fat compartments in four patients with muscular dystrophy, a patient with myopathy, five controls, an anorexic subject, and a body builder. Detailed systematic series (ie, 50) of axial MR images (T1-weighted, TR/TE 400/10 msec) were obtained throughout the whole body of each subject. The results showed that 15, 20, and 35 axial sections through the body are sufficient to secure coefficients of error (CEs) on the estimates of total muscle and fat volume of around 10%, 5%, and 3% respectively in muscular dystrophy patients and controls. The mean normalized volumes of muscle in four muscular dystrophy patients were decreased by 27% (t-test: P < 0.05), and those of total fat were increased by 12% (t-test: P > 0.05) relative to controls. The Cavalieri method provides a direct, efficient, and mathematically unbiased approach for studying human body compartments and may have application in assessing treatment efficacy in patients with muscular dystrophy. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2000;12:467-475.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.