Purpose: To develop a practical protocol for diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the human optic nerve with echo planar imaging (EPI) geometric distortion correction.
Materials and methods: A conventional DTI protocol was modified to acquire images with fat and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) suppression and field inhomogeneity maps of contiguous coronal slices covering the whole brain. The technique was applied to healthy volunteers and multiple sclerosis patients with and without a history of unilateral optic neuritis. DTI measures and optic nerve tractography before and after geometric distortion correction were compared. Diffusion measures from left and right or from affected and unaffected eyes in different subject cohorts were reported.
Results: The image geometry after correction closely resembled reference anatomical images. Optic nerve tractography became feasible after distortion correction. The diffusion measures from the healthy volunteers were in good agreement with the literature. Statistically significant differences were found in the fractional anisotropy and orthogonal eigenvalues between affected and unaffected eyes in optic neuritis patients with poor recovery. The diffusion measures before and after geometric distortion correction were not significantly different. For cohorts without optic neuritis, the difference between diffusion measures from left and right eyes was not statistically significant.
Conclusion: The proposed technique could provide a practical DTI protocol to study the human optic nerve.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.