Purpose: To investigate whether a 3D-modified driven equilibrium Fourier transform (MDEFT)-based acquisition protocol established for brain morphometry also yields reliable information about the cross-sectional spinal cord area (SCA).
Materials and methods: Images of brain and cervical cord of 10 controls and eight subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI) were acquired with the 3D-MDEFT-based imaging protocol and an 8-channel receive head coil. The new protocol was validated by two observers 1) comparing the SCA measured with the standard acquisition protocol (3D magnetization-prepared rapid acquisition gradient echo [MPRAGE] and dedicated spine coil) and the new protocol; and 2) determining the scan-rescan reproducibility of the new protocol.
Results: Scan-rescan reproducibility of SCA measurements with the MDEFT approach showed a similar precision for both observers with standard deviation (SD) <4.5 mm(2) and coefficient of variation (CV) ≤5.1%. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a main effect of observer and interaction between observer and scan protocol that could be primarily attributed to a small observer bias for MPRAGE (difference in SCA <2.1 mm(2)). No bias was observed for 3D-MDEFT vs. 3D-MPRAGE.
Conclusion: The 3D-MDEFT method allows for robust unbiased assessment of SCA in addition to brain morphology.