Gradient-echo MRI of resonance-frequency shift and T2* values exhibit unique tissue contrast and offer relevant physiological information. However, acquiring 3D-phase images and T2* maps with the standard spoiled gradient echo (SPGR) sequence is lengthy for routine imaging at high-spatial resolution and whole-brain coverage. In addition, with the standard SPGR sequence, optimal signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) cannot be achieved for every tissue type given their distributed resonance frequency and T2* value. To address these two issues, a SNR optimized multi-echo sequence with a stack-of-spiral acquisition is proposed and implemented for achieving fast and simultaneous acquisition of image phase and T2* maps. The analytical behavior of the phase SNR is derived as a function of resonance frequency, T2* and echo time. This relationship is utilized to achieve tissue optimized SNR by combining phase images with different echo times. Simulations and in vivo experiments were designed to verify the theoretical predictions. Using the multi-echo spiral acquisition, whole-brain coverage with 1 mm isotropic resolution can be achieved within 2.5 min, shortening the scan time by a factor of 8. The resulting multi-echo phase map shows similar SNR to that of the standard SPGR. The acquisition can be further accelerated with non-Cartesian parallel imaging. The technique can be readily extended to other multi-shot readout trajectories besides spiral. It may provide a practical acquisition strategy for high resolution and simultaneous 3D mapping of magnetic susceptibility and T2*.
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