Purpose: To investigate the hypothesis that the outer boundary of the hyperintense region observed in hyperacute (several minutes post-ablation) T2 and gadolinium contrast-enhanced (CE) T1-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) lesion images is an accurate predictor of eventual cell death from radiofrequency (RF) thermal ablation.
Materials and methods: A low-field, open MR imaging system was used to guide an ablation electrode into a thigh muscle of five rabbits and acquire in vivo T2 and CE T1-weighted MR volumes. Ablation occurred by applying RF current for two minutes with the electrode's temperature maintained at 90 degrees +/- 2 degrees C. After fixation, we sliced and photographed the tissue at 3 mm intervals, using a specially designed apparatus, to obtain a volume of tissue images. Digital images of hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and Masson trichrome-stained histologic samples were obtained, and distinct regions of tissue damage were labeled using a video microscopy system. After the MR and histology images were aligned using a three-dimensional registration method, we compared tissue damage boundaries identified in histology with boundaries marked in MR images.
Results: The lesions have distinct zones of tissue damage histologically: a central zone of necrotic cells surrounded by an outer zone with cells that appeared non-viable and associated with marked interstitial edema. In 14 histology images from five lesions, the inner and outer boundaries of the outer zone were compared with the boundaries of a hyperintense rim that surrounds a central hypointense region in the T2 and CE T1-weighted MR images. For T2 and CE T1-weighted MR images, respectively, the mean absolute distance was 1.04 +/- 0.30 mm (mean +/- SD) and 1.00 +/- 0.34 mm for the inner boundaries, and 0.96 +/- 0.34 mm and 0.94 +/- 0.44 mm for the outer boundaries. The mean absolute distances for T2 and CE T1-weighted MR images were not sufficiently different to achieve statistical significance (P = 0.745, 0.818, for the inner and outer boundary, respectively).
Conclusion: In hyperacute T2 and CE T1-weighted MR lesion images, observations strongly suggest that the outer boundary of the hyperintense rim corresponds to the region of eventual cell necrosis within a distance comparable to our ability to measure. This is good evidence that during RF ablation procedures, MR lesion images can be used to accurately localize the zone of irreversible tissue damage at the lesion margin.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.