BOLD-MRI (blood oxygenation-level dependent magnetic resonance imaging) allows non-invasive measurement of renal tissue oxygenation in humans, without the need for contrast products. BOLD-MRI uses the fact that magnetic properties of hemoglobin depend of its oxygenated state:: the higher local deoxyhemoglobin, the higher the so called apparent relaxation rate R2* (sec-1), and the lower local tissue oxygen content. Several factors other than deoxyhemoglobin (such as hydration status, dietary sodium intake, and susceptibility effects) influence the BOLD signal, and need to be taken into account when interpreting results. The last 5 years have witnessed important improvements in the standardization of these factors, and the appearance of new, highly reproducible analysis techniques of BOLD-images, that are reviewed in this article. Using these new BOLD-MRI analysis techniques, it has recently been shown that persons suffering from chronic kidney diseases (CKD) have lower cortical oxygenation than normotensive controls, thus confirming the chronic hypoxia hypothesis. The acute alterations in R2* after the administration of furosemide are smaller in CKD, and represent an estimate of the oxygen-dependent tubular transport of sodium. BOLD-MRI-alone or in combination with other functional MRI methods- can be used to monitor the renal effects of drugs, and is increasingly used in the preclinical setting. The near future will tell whether or not BOLD-MRI represents a new tool to predict renal function decline an adverse renal outcome.
Keywords: BOLD-MRI; TLCO-technique; chronic kidney disease; furosemide; renal artery stenosis.