7T dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI for the detection of subtle blood-brain barrier leakage

J Neuroimaging. 2021 Jun 23. doi: 10.1111/jon.12894. Online ahead of print.


Background and purpose: Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) can be employed to assess the blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity. Detection of BBB leakage at lower field strengths (≤3T) is cumbersome as the signal is noisy, while leakage can be subtle. Utilizing the increased signal-to-noise ratio at higher field strengths, we explored the application of 7T DCE-MRI for assessing BBB leakage.

Methods: A dual-time resolution DCE-MRI method was implemented at 7T and a slow injection rate (0.3 ml/s) and low dose (3 mmol) served to obtain signal changes linearly related to the gadolinium concentration, that is, minimized for T2 * degradation effects. With the Patlak graphical approach, the leakage rate (Ki ) and blood plasma volume fraction (vp ) were calculated. The method was evaluated in 10 controls, an ischemic stroke patient, and a patient with a transient ischemic attack.

Results: Ki and vp were significantly higher in gray matter compared to white matter of all participants. These Ki values were higher in both patients compared to the control subjects. Finally, for the lesion identified in the ischemic stroke patient, higher leakage values were observed compared to normal-appearing tissue.

Conclusion: We demonstrate how a dual-time resolution DCE-MRI protocol at 7T, with administration of half the clinically used contrast agent dose, can be used for assessing subtle BBB leakage. Although the feasibility of DCE-MRI for assessing the BBB integrity at 3T is well known, we showed that a continuous sampling DCE-MRI method tailored for 7T is also capable of assessing leakage with a high sensitivity over a range of Ki values.

Keywords: 7T; DCE-MRI; blood-brain barrier; cerebrovascular disease.