Introduction: Diffusion-weighted MR imaging (DWI) of the spine requires robust imaging methods, that are insensitive to susceptibility effects caused by the transition from bone to soft tissue and motion artifacts due to breathing, swallowing, and cardiac motion. The purpose of this study was to develop a robust imaging method suitable for DWI of the spine.
Methods and subjects: A radial k-space spin echo sequence has been implemented, which is self-navigating because each acquisition line passes through the origin of k-space. Influence of cardiac motion and associated flow of cerebrospinal fluid is minimized by cardiac gating with a finger photoplethysmograph. The sequence has been tested on a 1.5T system. Diffusion-weighted images of six normal volunteers were acquired in the sagittal plane with 4 b values between 50 and 500 s mm(-2). Because of the symmetries of the cord, diffusion measurements in the head-foot (HF) or left-right (LR) directions were sufficient to measure the dominant effects of anisotropy.
Results: The apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) measured, respectively, in the LR and HF directions were (0.699+/-0.050)x10(-3) and (1.805+/-0.086)x10(-3) mm(2) s(-1) in the spinal cord, (1.588+/-0.082)x10(-3) and (1.528+/-0.052)x10(-3) mm(2) s(-1) in the intervertebral disks, and (0.346+/-0.047)x10(-3) and (0.306+/-0.035)x10(-3) mm(2) s(-1) in the vertebrae of the cervicothoracic spine.
Conclusion: Diffusion-weighted spin echo sequences with radial trajectories in k-space provide a means of achieving robust, high quality diffusion-weighted imaging and measuring ADCs in the spine. The application of the diffusion-weighting gradients in different directions allows diffusion anisotropy to be measured.