Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare brain and tumor signal characteristics of T1-weighted turbo spin-echo (TSE) and gradient recalled echo (GRE) sequence techniques at 3 T compared to TSE at 1.5 T, focusing on the detection of contrast enhancement, in a standardized animal model of a brain glioma.
Materials and methods: Twelve rats with implanted brain gliomas were evaluated at 1.5 and 3 T using matched hardware configurations. At 1.5 T, scanning was performed using a TSE sequence optimized for field strength (480/15 milliseconds; 125 Hz/Px) with postcontrast scans acquired at multiple time points after gadoteridol injection (0.1 mmol/kg). At 3 T, scanning was performed using the 1.5 T equivalent TSE as well as with TSE and GRE techniques optimized for 3 T. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of brain and tumor and tumor contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) were evaluated for all techniques at both field strengths.
Results: Postcontrast tumor SNR (63.7 +/- 10.8 vs. 29.5 +/- 4.3; P < 0.0001) and brain SNR (35.8 +/- 1.5 vs. 19.1 +/- 0.7; P < 0.0001) showed significant increase at 3 T using matched TSE. Comparing TSE optimized to each field strength (for optimized gray-white contrast), tumor and brain SNR still showed a significant increase at 3 T of 73% and 56%, respectively (both P < 0.0001). Comparing TSE at 1.5 T and GRE at 3 T, tumor SNR increased by 105%, whereas brain SNR increased by 141% (both P < 0.0001). Tumor CNR with matched TSE increased by 168% (P < 0.0001), with optimized TSE by 111% (P < 0.0001), and with GRE at 3 T versus TSE at 1.5 T by 36% (P < 0.001). With additional adjustments for echo time the gain in tumor CNR for 2D GRE may again reach 60%.
Conclusions: With TSE at 3 T, the SNR gain comes close to the theoretically expected doubling with an even higher tumor CNR increase. In a clinical like setting at 3 T, where a T1w GRE sequence is used, tumor CNR gain is limited. Contrast dose should therefore not be decreased at 3 T.