Purpose: Dynamic phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((31)P MRS) during and after acute exercise enables the noninvasive in vivo determination of the mitochondrial capacity of skeletal muscle. Nevertheless, the lack of standardization in experimental setups leads to significant variations in published values of maximal aerobic capacity, even in the population of healthy volunteers. Thus, in this study, we aimed to assess the impact of the ergometer type (pneumatic and mechanical resistance construction), radiofrequency (RF)-coil diameter, and different magnetic field strengths (3 and 7 T) on the metabolic parameters measured by dynamic (31)P MRS during a plantar flexion isotonic exercise protocol within the same group of healthy volunteers.
Methods: Dynamic (31)P MRS measurements of the calf muscle in 11 volunteers (mean age, 36 ± 13 yrs; mean BMI, 23.5 ± 2.5 kg/m(2)), on a 3 T MR system with a custom-made mechanical ergometer in the first research laboratory (RL1) and on 3 and 7 T MR systems equipped with a commercial pneumatic ergometer in the second research laboratory (RL2), were performed at three different workloads. RF-coils differed slightly between the sites and MR systems used. The repeatability of the experimental protocol was tested in every setup. The basal concentrations of phosphocreatine (PCr), exercise-induced depletion of PCr (ΔPCr), initial PCr resynthesis rate (VPCr), and mitochondrial capacity (Qmax) were calculated and compared between the research sites and field strengths.
Results: High repeatability of the measurement protocol was found in every experimental setup. No significant differences at any workload were found in these metabolic parameters assessed at different magnetic field strengths (3 T vs 7 T), using the same ergometer (in RL2) and a similar RF-coil. In the inter-research laboratory comparison at the same field strength (3 T), but with using different ergometers and RF-coils, differences were found in the concentration of PCr measured at rest and in the drop in PCr signal intensity. These differences translated into difference in the value of mitochondrial capacity at a workload of 15% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force (0.45 ± 0.16 mM/s vs 0.31 ± 0.08 mM/s, in the RL1 and RL2, respectively).
Conclusions: Metabolic parameters measured during exercise challenge by dynamic (31)P MRS do not depend upon the magnetic field strength used. For multicenter studies with different ergometers, it is important to set the same workload, measurement, and evaluation protocols, especially when the effects of very mild exercise (15% MVC) are to be compared. However, a higher workload (24% MVC) decreases the influence of imperfections and intersite differences for the assessed value of maximal mitochondrial capacity.