Black-blood MRI is a promising tool for carotid atherosclerotic plaque burden assessment and compositional analysis. However, current sequences are limited by large slice thickness. Accuracy of measurement can be improved by moving to isotropic imaging but can be challenging for patient compliance due to long scan times. We present a fast isotropic high spatial resolution (0.7×0.7×0.7 mm3) three-dimensional black-blood sequence (3D-MERGE) covering the entire cervical carotid arteries within 2 min thus ensuring patient compliance and diagnostic image quality. The sequence is optimized for vessel wall imaging of the carotid bifurcation based on its signal properties. The optimized sequence is validated on patients with significant carotid plaque. Quantitative plaque morphology measurements and signal-to-noise ratio measures show that 3D-MERGE provides good blood suppression and comparable plaque burden measurements to existing MRI protocols. 3D-MERGE is a promising new tool for fast and accurate plaque burden assessment in patients with atherosclerotic plaque.
Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.