Purpose: Reduced or blocked ventilation of the paranasal sinuses is probably the most important factor in the development of sinusitis. Recently, the use of optically polarized noble gas isotopes has attracted increasing interest for use in a variety of promising MR applications. The aim of this study was to test the feasibility of imaging and visualization ventilation of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinus in MR by inhalation of hyperpolarized (3)helium. The goal was to evaluate ventilation defects of the paranasal sinuses.
Volunteers and methods: Three volunteers were enrolled in the study. (3)Helium was polarized to 40 - 50 % by direct optical pumping. 300 ml of 100 % (3)helium were administered in the left nasal vestibule through a glass tube. With a closed contralateral nasal vestibule, the Valsalva maneuver was performed twice. Using a dedicated application unit, which is also used in MR imaging of the lung, an exact amount of (3)helium gas was administered at the beginning of inspiration. Measurements were carried out on a clinical 1.5 T scanner. Coronal images of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses were acquired using ultrafast gradient-echo pulse sequence (TR = 2 ms, TE = 0.7 ms, FA < 2 degrees, 75 x 128, FOV = 500) with an image aquisition time of 130 ms.
Results: The oral cavity and nasal cavities display a very high signal intensity after inhalation of polarized (3)helium gas. The signal intensity in the left maxillary sinus was higher compared to the right one. The mean signal intensity on the left side was 526 +/- 86 and on the right side 336 +/- 102. The left and right frontal sinus and ethmoid sinus only show signal of hyperpolarized (3)helium after two Valsalva maneuvers. Because of the low signal intensity of the frontal and ethmoid cells their visualization was incomplete. The signal to noise ratio was 14.1 for the left maxillary sinus, 8.9 for the right side, 6.3 for the left ethmoid sinus, 5.8 for the right side and 6.6 for the left frontal sinus and 7.8 for the right side.
Conclusion: (3)Helium MR allows imaging of the nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses. Perhaps this method could be a new tool to visualize the ventilation of the maxillary sinus without ionizing radiation. Interpretations about the ventilation of the frontal and ethmoid cells remain speculative.