The purpose of this work was to quantify 3.0 T (i) T1 and T2 relaxation times of in vivo human lymph nodes (LNs) and (ii) LN relaxometry differences between healthy LNs and LNs from patients with lymphatic insufficiency secondary to breast cancer treatment-related lymphedema (BCRL). MR relaxometry was performed over bilateral axillary regions at 3.0 T in healthy female controls (105 LNs from 20 participants) and patients with BCRL (108 LNs from 20 participants). Quantitative T1 maps were calculated using a multi-flip-angle (20, 40, 60°) method with B1 correction (dual-TR method, TR1 /TR2 = 30/130 ms), and T2 maps using a multi-echo (TE = 9-189 ms; 12 ms intervals) method. T1 and T2 were quantified in the LN cortex and hilum. A Mann-Whitney U-test was applied to compare LN relaxometry values between patients and controls (significance, two sided, p < 0.05). Linear regression was applied to evaluate how LN relaxometry varied with age, BMI, and clinical indicators of disease. LN substructure relaxation times (mean ± standard deviation) in healthy controls were T1 cortex, 1435 ± 391 ms; T1 hilum, 714 ± 123 ms; T2 cortex, 102 ± 12 ms, and T2 hilum, 119 ± 21 ms. T1 of the LN cortex was significantly reduced in the contralateral axilla of BCRL patients compared with the axilla on the surgical side (p < 0.001) and compared with bilateral control values (p < 0.01). The LN cortex T1 asymmetry discriminated cases from controls (p = 0.004) in a multiple linear regression, accounting for age and BMI. Human 3.0 T T1 and T2 relaxation times in axillary LNs were quantified for the first time in vivo. Measured values are relevant for optimizing acquisition parameters in anatomical lymphatic imaging sequences, and can serve as a reference for novel functional and molecular LN imaging methods that require quantitative knowledge of LN relaxation times.
Keywords: breast cancer; cancer therapy responses; metastases; relaxometry.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.