Comparison of cerebral blood flow measurement with [15O]-water positron emission tomography and arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging: A systematic review

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2016 May;36(5):842-61. doi: 10.1177/0271678X16636393. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


Noninvasive imaging of cerebral blood flow provides critical information to understand normal brain physiology as well as to identify and manage patients with neurological disorders. To date, the reference standard for cerebral blood flow measurements is considered to be positron emission tomography using injection of the [(15)O]-water radiotracer. Although [(15)O]-water has been used to study brain perfusion under normal and pathological conditions, it is not widely used in clinical settings due to the need for an on-site cyclotron, the invasive nature of arterial blood sampling, and experimental complexity. As an alternative, arterial spin labeling is a promising magnetic resonance imaging technique that magnetically labels arterial blood as it flows into the brain to map cerebral blood flow. As arterial spin labeling becomes more widely adopted in research and clinical settings, efforts have sought to standardize the method and validate its cerebral blood flow values against positron emission tomography-based cerebral blood flow measurements. The purpose of this work is to critically review studies that performed both [(15)O]-water positron emission tomography and arterial spin labeling to measure brain perfusion, with the aim of better understanding the accuracy and reproducibility of arterial spin labeling relative to the positron emission tomography reference standard.

Keywords: Cerebral blood flow; arterial spin labeling; magnetic resonance imaging; perfusion imaging; positron emission tomography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography / methods*
  • Oxygen Radioisotopes
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / standards
  • Spin Labels*
  • Water


  • Oxygen Radioisotopes
  • Spin Labels
  • Water