Magnetic resonance imaging of the time course of hyperpolarized 129 Xe gas exchange in the human lungs and heart

Eur Radiol. 2019 May;29(5):2283-2292. doi: 10.1007/s00330-018-5853-9. Epub 2018 Dec 5.


Purpose: To perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), human lung imaging, and quantification of the gas-transfer dynamics of hyperpolarized xenon-129 (HPX) from the alveoli into the blood plasma.

Materials and methods: HPX MRI with iterative decomposition of water and fat with echo asymmetry and least-square estimation (IDEAL) approach were used with multi-interleaved spiral k-space sampling to obtain HPX gas and dissolved phase images. IDEAL time-series images were then obtained from ten subjects including six normal subjects and four patients with pulmonary emphysema to test the feasibility of the proposed technique for capturing xenon-129 gas-transfer dynamics (XGTD). The dynamics of xenon gas diffusion over the entire lung was also investigated by measuring the signal intensity variations between three regions of interest, including the left and right lungs and the heart using Welch's t test.

Results: The technique enabled the acquisition of HPX gas and dissolved phase compartment images in a single breath-hold interval of 8 s. The y-intersect of the XGTD curves were also found to be statistically lower in the patients with lung emphysema than in the healthy group (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: This time-series IDEAL technique enables the visualization and quantification of inhaled xenon from the alveoli to the left ventricle with a clinical gradient strength magnet during a single breath-hold, in healthy and diseased lungs.

Key points: • The proposed hyperpolarized xenon-129 gas and dissolved magnetic resonance imaging technique can provide regional and temporal measurements of xenon-129 gas-transfer dynamics. • Quantitative measurement of xenon-129 gas-transfer dynamics from the alveolar to the heart was demonstrated in normal subjects and pulmonary emphysema. • Comparison of gas-transfer dynamics in normal subjects and pulmonary emphysema showed that the proposed technique appears sensitive to changes affecting the alveoli, pulmonary interstitium, and capillaries.

Keywords: Chemical shift imaging; Heart; Magnetic resonance imaging; Pulmonary emphysema; Xenon.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange*
  • Xenon Isotopes


  • Xenon Isotopes
  • Xenon-129