High-resolution Contrast-Enhanced Vessel Wall Imaging in Patients With Suspected Cerebral Vasculitis: Prospective Comparison of Whole-Brain 3D T1 SPACE Versus 2D T1 Black Blood MRI at 3 Tesla

PLoS One. 2019 Mar 8;14(3):e0213514. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213514. eCollection 2019.


Purpose: Vessel wall imaging (VWI) using T1 dark blood MRI can depict inflammation of intracranial arteries in patients with cerebral vasculitis. Recently, 3D VWI sequences were introduced at 3 Tesla. We aimed to compare 2D and 3D VWI for detection of intracranial vessel wall enhancement (VWE) in patients suspected of cerebral vasculitis.

Methods: 44 MRI scans of 39 patients were assessed that included bi-planar 2D T1 and whole-brain 3D T1 SPACE dark blood VWI pre and post contrast. Visibility and VWE were analyzed in 31 pre-specified intracranial artery segments. Additionally, leptomeningeal and parenchymal contrast enhancement was assessed.

Results: Overall, more arterial segments were visualized with 3D VWI (p<0.0001). Detection of VWE showed fair agreement between 2D and 3D VWI (κ = 0.583). On segmental level, more VWE was detected in intradural ICA by 2D VWI (p<0.001) and in VA V4 segment by 3D VWI (p<0.05). 3D VWI showed more leptomeningeal (p<0.05) and parenchymal (p<0.01) contrast enhancement. In patients with positive diagnosis of cerebral vasculitis, sensitivity was of 67% (2D and 3D VWI) and specificity was 44% (2D VWI) and 48% (3D VWI); more VWE was seen in arteries distal to VA and ICA compared to non-vasculitic patients.

Conclusion: 2D and 3D VWI differed in the ability to detect VWE. Whole brain coverage with better evaluability of VAs and distal intracranial artery segments, and depiction of more parenchymal and leptomeningeal enhancement make 3D VWI more favorable. As VWE in arteries distal to VA and ICA may be used for discrimination of vasculitic and non-vasculitic patients, future increase in spatial resolution of 3D VWI sequences may be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebral Angiography*
  • Contrast Media / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vasculitis, Central Nervous System / diagnostic imaging*


  • Contrast Media

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.