Pulmonary Embolism Detection with Three-dimensional Ultrashort Echo Time MR Imaging: Experimental Study in Canines

Radiology. 2016 Feb;278(2):413-21. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2015150606. Epub 2015 Sep 30.


Purpose: To demonstrate the feasibility of free-breathing three-dimensional (3D) radial ultrashort echo time (UTE) magnetic resonance (MR) imaging in the simultaneous detection of pulmonary embolism (PE) and high-quality evaluation of lung parenchyma.

Materials and methods: The institutional animal care committee approved this study. A total of 12 beagles underwent MR imaging and computed tomography (CT) before and after induction of PE with autologous clots. Breath-hold 3D MR angiography and free-breathing 3D radial UTE (1.0-mm isotropic spatial resolution; echo time, 0.08 msec) were performed at 3 T. Two blinded radiologists independently marked and graded all PEs on a four-point scale (1 = low confidence, 4 = absolutely certain) on MR angiographic and UTE images. Image quality of pulmonary arteries and lung parenchyma was scored on a four-point-scale (1 = poor, 4 = excellent). Locations and ratings of emboli were compared with reference standard CT images by using an alternative free-response receiver operating characteristic curve (AFROC) method. Areas under the curve and image quality ratings were compared by using the F test and the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

Results: A total of 48 emboli were detected with CT. Both readers showed higher sensitivity for PE detection with UTE (83% and 79%) than with MR angiography (75% and 71%). The AFROC area under the curve was higher for UTE than for MR angiography (0.95 vs 0.89), with a significant difference in area under the curve of 0.06 (95% confidence interval: 0.01, 0.11; P = .018). UTE image quality exceeded that of MR angiography for subsegmental arteries (3.5 ± 0.7 vs 2.9 ± 0.5, P = .002) and lung parenchyma (3.8 ± 0.5 vs 2.2 ± 0.2, P < .001). The apparent signal-to-noise ratio in pulmonary arteries and lung parenchyma was significantly higher for UTE than for MR angiography (41.0 ± 5.2 vs 24.5 ± 6.2 [P < .001] and 10.2 ± 1.8 vs 3.5 ± 0.8 [P < .001], respectively). The apparent contrast-to-noise ratio between arteries and PEs was higher for UTE than for MR angiography (20.3 ± 5.2 vs 15.4 ± 6.7, P = .055).

Conclusion: In a canine model, free-breathing 3D radial UTE performs better than breath-hold 3D MR angiography in the detection of PE and yields better image quality for visualization of small vessels and lung parenchyma. Free-breathing 3D radial UTE for detection of PE is feasible and warrants evaluation in human subjects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contrast Media
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Gadolinium
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography / methods*
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods


  • Contrast Media
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Gadolinium
  • gadofosveset trisodium