Classic models for dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI

NMR Biomed. 2013 Aug;26(8):1004-27. doi: 10.1002/nbm.2940. Epub 2013 May 15.


Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) is a functional MRI method where T1 -weighted MR images are acquired dynamically after bolus injection of a contrast agent. The data can be interpreted in terms of physiological tissue characteristics by applying the principles of tracer-kinetic modelling. In the brain, DCE-MRI enables measurement of cerebral blood flow (CBF), cerebral blood volume (CBV), blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability-surface area product (PS) and the volume of the interstitium (ve ). These parameters can be combined to form others such as the volume-transfer constant K(trans) , the extraction fraction E and the contrast-agent mean transit times through the intra- and extravascular spaces. A first generation of tracer-kinetic models for DCE-MRI was developed in the early 1990s and has become a standard in many applications. Subsequent improvements in DCE-MRI data quality have driven the development of a second generation of more complex models. They are increasingly used, but it is not always clear how they relate to the models of the first generation or to the model-free deconvolution methods for tissues with intact BBB. This lack of understanding is leading to increasing confusion on when to use which model and how to interpret the parameters. The purpose of this review is to clarify the relation between models of the first and second generations and between model-based and model-free methods. All quantities are defined using a generic terminology to ensure the widest possible scope and to reveal the link between applications in the brain and in other organs.

Keywords: DCE-MRI; DSC-MRI; deconvolution; perfusion; permeability; tracer-kinetic models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Blood Volume
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiopathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Contrast Media* / administration & dosage
  • Contrast Media* / pharmacokinetics
  • Hematocrit
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Injections
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Microcirculation
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Plasma


  • Contrast Media