Techniques and applications of skeletal muscle diffusion tensor imaging: A review

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2016 Apr;43(4):773-88. doi: 10.1002/jmri.25016. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is increasingly applied to study skeletal muscle physiology, anatomy, and pathology. The reason for this growing interest is that DTI offers unique, noninvasive, and potentially diagnostically relevant imaging readouts of skeletal muscle structure that are difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise. DTI has been shown to be feasible within most skeletal muscles. DTI parameters are highly sensitive to patient-specific properties such as age, body mass index (BMI), and gender, but also to more transient factors such as exercise, rest, pressure, temperature, and relative joint position. However, when designing a DTI study one should not only be aware of sensitivity to the above-mentioned factors but also the fact that the DTI parameters are dependent on several acquisition parameters such as echo time, b-value, and diffusion mixing time. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of DTI studies covering the technical, demographic, and clinical aspects of DTI in skeletal muscles. First we will focus on the critical aspects of the acquisition protocol. Second, we will cover the reported normal variance in skeletal muscle diffusion parameters, and finally we provide an overview of clinical studies and reported parameter changes due to several (patho-)physiological conditions.

Keywords: applications; diffusion tensor imaging; skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Software
  • Temperature