Diffusion tensor imaging and tractography of the kidneys: assessment of chronic parenchymal diseases

Eur Radiol. 2013 Jun;23(6):1678-85. doi: 10.1007/s00330-012-2749-y. Epub 2013 Jan 9.


Objective: To assess renal dysfunction in chronic kidney diseases using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

Methods: Forty-seven patients with impaired renal function (study group) and 17 patients without renal diseases (control group) were examined using DTI sequences. Cortical and medullary regions of interest (ROIs) were located to obtain the corresponding values of the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and the fractional anisotropy (FA). The mean values of the ADC and FA, for each ROI site, were obtained in each group and were compared. Furthermore, the correlations between the diffusion parameters and the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) were determined.

Results: In both the normal and affected kidneys, we obtained the cortico-medullary difference of the ADC and the FA values. The FA value in the medulla was significantly lower (P = 0.0149) in patients with renal function impairment as compared to patients with normal renal function. A direct correlation between DTI parameters and the eGFR was not found. Tractography visualised disruption of the regular arrangement of the tracts in patient with renal function alteration.

Conclusion: DTI could be a useful tool in the evaluation of chronic kidney disease and, in particular, the medullary FA value seems to be the main parameter for assessing renal damage.

Key points: • Magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging (MRDTI) provides new information about renal problems. • DTI allows non-invasive repeatable evaluation of the renal parenchyma, without contrast media. • DTI could become useful in the management of chronic parenchymal disease. • DTI seems more appropriate for renal evaluation than diffusion-weighted imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anisotropy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult