Pulmonary MRI of neonates in the intensive care unit using 3D ultrashort echo time and a small footprint MRI system

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2017 Feb;45(2):463-471. doi: 10.1002/jmri.25394. Epub 2016 Jul 26.


Purpose: To determine the feasibility of pulmonary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of neonatal lung structures enabled by combining two novel technologies: first, a 3D radial ultrashort echo time (UTE) pulse sequence capable of high spatial resolution full-chest imaging in nonsedated quiet-breathing neonates; and second, a unique, small-footprint 1.5T MRI scanner design adapted for neonatal imaging and installed within the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Materials and methods: Ten patients underwent MRI within the NICU, in accordance with an approved Institutional Review Board protocol. Five had clinical diagnoses of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and five had putatively normal lung function. Pulmonary imaging was performed at 1.5T using 3D radial UTE and standard 3D fast gradient recalled echo (FGRE). Diagnostic quality, presence of motion artifacts, and apparent severity of lung pathology were evaluated by two radiologists. Quantitative metrics were additionally used to evaluate lung parenchymal signal.

Results: UTE images showed significantly higher signal in lung parenchyma (P < 0.0001) and fewer apparent motion artifacts compared to FGRE (P = 0.046). Pulmonary pathology was more severe in patients diagnosed with BPD relative to controls (P = 0.001). Infants diagnosed with BPD also had significantly higher signal in lung parenchyma, measured using UTE, relative to controls (P = 0.002).

Conclusion: These results demonstrate the technical feasibility of pulmonary MRI in free-breathing, nonsedated infants in the NICU at high, isotropic resolutions approaching that achievable with computed tomography (CT). There is potential for pulmonary MRI to play a role in improving how clinicians understand and manage care of neonatal and pediatric pulmonary diseases. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2016.

Level of evidence: 2 J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2017;45:463-471.

Keywords: 3D radial; UTE; bronchopulmonary dysplasia; lung; neonates; pulmonary MRI.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / instrumentation
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation*
  • Male
  • Miniaturization
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity