Alterations in the mechanical properties or "hardness" of tissues allow physicians to detect disease by palpation. Recently, attempts have been made to quantitate and image these tissue properties with the use of magnetic resonance elastography (MRE). This technique has been validated in ex vivo specimens, including kidney, breast, and prostate. In this study, in vivo MRE imaging of rat renal cortex is demonstrated and validated with a disease model that will facilitate further studies. Normal rats and rats with nephrocalcinosis induced with either 2 or 4 weeks of ethylene glycol exposure were studied with MRE. Histology in the diseased rats documented the presence of nephrocalcinosis. MRE measurements and images of shear stiffness were highly reproducible in individual rats. The shear stiffness of the renal cortex in normal rats was 3.87 kPa (95% CI 2.84-4.90 kPa). The shear stiffness increased to 5.02 kPa (95% CI 3.34-6.70 kPa) after 2 weeks of exposure, and to 6.49 kPa (95% CI 4.84-8.14 kPa) after 4 weeks of exposure (P = 0.0302, alpha < 0.05). MRE is capable of detecting alterations in the tissue mechanical properties of kidneys in vivo. It is a promising noninvasive technique that might have pathologic and prognostic significance.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.