Principles and limitations of NMR diffusion measurements

J Med Phys. 2007 Jan;32(1):34-42. doi: 10.4103/0971-6203.31148.


Diffusion spectroscopy, imaging and particularly diffusion tensor imaging have become popular thanks to their numerous clinical and research applications which span from brain stroke evaluation to fiber tracking. With a few exceptions, these methods are rooted in the classic Stejskal-Tanner formula for the diffusion-attenuated signal, usually obtained by solving the Bloch-Torrey partial differential equations. Here we derive the Stejskal-Tanner formula in the simplest possible manner, avoiding integrals and differential equations. This approach makes it easy to understand the origin of the diffusion signal attenuation, the effects of various diffusion sequence parameters, and also the numerous important pitfalls, which are discussed in the last section.

Keywords: b-value; diffusion time; random walk; tortuosity; volume fraction.