Objective: This study evaluated the effectiveness of steady-state free-precession (SSFP) MR imaging of complex cystic masses of the brain compared with that of conventional T1- and T2-weighted spin-echo imaging. Our hypothesis is that SSFP MR images provide better characterization of these masses and facilitate more appropriate preoperative diagnoses and planning.
Subject and methods: Axial T1-weighted and SSFP MR images and specimens for pathologic examination were obtained in seven consecutive patients, 9-81 years old, with cystic mass lesions of the brain and neurologic symptoms and signs directly related to the masses. Axial contrast-enhanced T1-weighted images were obtained in six patients, surgical exploration was done in five patients, and stereotaxic biopsy was done in two. After examination of the routine spin-echo and SSFP images, the usefulness of SSFP images was determined by how well they facilitated correct preoperative diagnosis.
Results: On SSFP MR images, the solid or inhomogeneous components of a cystic mass had extremely low signals in contrast to the high signal of surrounding fluid. On routine spin-echo images, however, the signals of these components were masked by the signal of the surrounding fluid. SSFP MR images helped markedly in diagnosis of hemorrhagic, epidermoid, and arachnoid cysts. In cases of enhancing brain tumors, SSFP MR images provided the same information that contrast-enhanced images did. Overall, when SSFP MR imaging was used, more information about the texture and constituents of the cystic mass was obtained, and a more useful diagnosis was made.
Conclusion: Initial results show that SSFP MR imaging is a more useful technique than conventional spin-echo imaging for characterizing complex cystic masses of the brain. SSFP MR imaging (1) allows distinction of edema from tumor, (2) helps establish where biopsy has the best chance of providing tissue that will show pathologic changes, and (3) helps distinguish simple cysts from tumors, tumor-cyst, or multicompartmental cyst and may be particularly helpful in detecting the contents of hemorrhagic cysts.