Rationale and objectives: The purpose of this study is to determine hyperpolarized helium 3 (HHe) magnetic resonance (MR) findings of the lung in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) compared with healthy subjects and determine whether HHe MR can detect changes after bronchodilator therapy or mechanical airway mucus clearance treatment.
Materials and methods: Thirty-one subjects, 16 healthy volunteers and 15 patients with CF, underwent HHe lung ventilation MR imaging and spirometry at baseline. Eight patients with CF then were treated with nebulized albuterol, after which a follow-up HHe MR scan was obtained. Subsequently, recombinant human deoxyribonuclease (DNase) treatment and chest physical therapy were performed in these eight subjects, followed by a third HHe MR scan. For each MR study, the number of ventilation defects was scored by a human reader.
Results: Patients with CF had significantly more HHe MR ventilation defects per image than healthy subjects (mean, 8.2 defects in patients with CF vs 1.6 defects in healthy subjects; P < .05). Even the four subjects with CF with a normal forced expiratory volume in 1 second had significantly more ventilation defects than healthy subjects (mean, 6.5 defects in these patients with CF; P = .0002). After treatment with albuterol, there was a small, but statistically significant, decrease in number of ventilation defects (mean, 9.6-8.0 defects; P = .025). After DNase and chest physical therapy, there was a trend toward increasing ventilation defects (mean, 8.3 defects; P = .096), but with a residual net improvement relative to baseline.
Conclusion: In patients with CF, HHe MR ventilation defects correlate with spirometry, change with treatment, and are elevated in number in patients with CF with normal spirometry results. Thus, HHe MR appears to possess many of the characteristics required of a biomarker for pulmonary CF and may be useful in the evaluation of CF pulmonary disease severity or progression.