Feasibility, tolerability and safety of pediatric hyperpolarized 129 Xe magnetic resonance imaging in healthy volunteers and children with cystic fibrosis

Pediatr Radiol. 2016 Nov;46(12):1651-1662. doi: 10.1007/s00247-016-3672-1. Epub 2016 Aug 5.


Background: Hyperpolarized 129Xe is a promising contrast agent for MRI of pediatric lung function, but its safety and tolerability in children have not been rigorously assessed.

Objective: To assess the feasibility, safety and tolerability of hyperpolarized 129Xe gas as an inhaled contrast agent for pediatric pulmonary MRI in healthy control subjects and in children with cystic fibrosis.

Materials and methods: Seventeen healthy control subjects (ages 6-15 years, 11 boys) and 11 children with cystic fibrosis (ages 8-16 years, 4 boys) underwent 129Xe MRI, receiving up to three doses of 129Xe gas prepared by either a commercially available or a homebuilt 129Xe polarizer. Subject heart rate and SpO2 were monitored for 2 min post inhalation and compared to resting baseline values. Adverse events were reported via follow-up phone call at days 1 and 30 (range ±7 days) post-MRI.

Results: All children tolerated multiple doses of 129Xe, and no children withdrew from the study. Relative to baseline, most children who received a full dose of gas for imaging (10 of 12 controls and 8 of 11 children with cystic fibrosis) experienced a nadir in SpO2 (mean -6.0 ± standard deviation 7.2%, P≤0.001); however within 2 min post inhalation SpO2 values showed no significant difference from baseline (P=0.11). There was a slight elevation in heart rate (mean +6.6 ± 13.9 beats per minute [bpm], P=0.021), which returned from baseline within 2 min post inhalation (P=0.35). Brief side effects related to the anesthetic properties of xenon were mild and quickly resolved without intervention. No serious or severe adverse events were observed; in total, four minor adverse events (14.3%) were reported following 129Xe MRI, but all were deemed unrelated to the study.

Conclusion: The feasibility, safety and tolerability of 129Xe MRI has been assessed in a small group of children as young as 6 years. SpO2 changes were consistent with the expected physiological effects of a short anoxic breath-hold, and other mild side effects were consistent with the known anesthetic properties of xenon and with previous safety assessments of 129Xe MRI in adults. Hyperpolarized 129Xe is a safe and well-tolerated inhaled contrast agent for pulmonary MR imaging in healthy children and in children with cystic fibrosis who have mild to moderate lung disease.

Keywords: Children; Cystic fibrosis; Hyperpolarized xenon; Lungs; Magnetic resonance imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Contrast Media / adverse effects*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Xenon Isotopes / adverse effects


  • Contrast Media
  • Xenon Isotopes