Addressing spontaneous signal voids in repetitive single-shot DWI of musculature: spatial and temporal patterns in the calves of healthy volunteers and consideration of unintended muscle activities as underlying mechanism

NMR Biomed. 2015 Jul;28(7):801-10. doi: 10.1002/nbm.3311. Epub 2015 May 6.


Single-shot diffusion-weighted MRI sensitive to different types of incoherent motion inside tissue shows sporadic signal voids with a considerable size (>1 cm) in calf musculature at rest. Spatial and temporal patterns of these signal voids and their dependence on measurement conditions were tested systematically in order to obtain more insight into the underlying mechanism. Lower leg muscles of 10 healthy subjects were examined by recording series of 1000 echo-planar single-shot scans with repetition time 500 ms and b-value 100 s/mm(2) . Effects of strength and orientation of motion sensitization gradients and of repetition times were analysed. Potential influences of arterial blood pulsations and positioning of the subject were studied. Comparison of calf muscle groups showed more frequent signal voids in gastrocnemius and soleus muscle compared with tibialis muscles. Large inter-individual variance in the total number of signal voids visible in a transverse slice of the lower leg was observed (minimum 40/1000 scans; maximum >550/1000 scans). Typical sizes of the affected muscular areas ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 cm in the transverse and from 1.5 to 7 cm in the head-feet direction. Signal voids occurred nearly independent of the cardiac phase and with similar frequencies for supine and prone positions. Resting calf muscles show spontaneous signal voids in single-shot DWI at low b-values with an irregular temporal and spatial pattern. Values of mean diffusivity, diffusion tensor parameters, and IVIM-derived perfusion are expected to be clearly distorted by such signal voids if no rejection of affected data is applied. Several potential causes for the signal voids are discussed. The most probable explanation for the phenomenon is seen in the occurrence of spontaneous incoherent mechanical activity in musculature based on weak muscle fibre contractions. If this is the case it opens up a new field for studies on the physiological role and regulation of these unintended muscle activities.

Keywords: EPI, diffusion weighted; EPI, stimulated echo; diffusion MRI; incoherent motion sensitive MR; musculature; spontaneous muscle activity at rest.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Artifacts*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Echo-Planar Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sample Size
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Young Adult