This paper reviews the recent development of a new high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging approach to visualizing small veins in the human brain with diameters in the sub-millimeter range, which is smaller than a voxel. It briefly introduces the physical background of the underlying bulk magnetic susceptibility effects, on which this approach is based, and it demonstrates the successful application of the method for imaging different intracranial lesions, like venous anomalies, arteriovenous malformations and brain tumors. The susceptibility difference between venous blood and the surrounding tissue is used to generate contrast. Using this method it is possible to visualize draining veins in lesions better than conventional magnetic resonance imaging methods, which often require application of a contrast medium or even conventional catheter angiography. Limitations of the method are discussed. The ability to highlight deoxygenated blood with high spatial resolution yields important vascular parameters which may be helpful for improved modeling of MR signal changes during functional brain activation, it may lead to a better understanding of brain function in diseased states, or it may even offer the possibility of differentiating benign from malignant tumors non-invasively.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.