Purpose: Accurate detection of cerebral microbleeds (CMBs) on susceptibility-weighted (SWI) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is crucial for the characterization of many neurological diseases. Low-field MRI offers greater access at lower costs and lower infrastructural requirements, but also reduced susceptibility artifacts. We therefore evaluated the diagnostic performance for the detection of CMBs of a whole-body low-field MRI in a prospective cohort of suspected stroke patients compared to an established 1.5 T MRI.
Methods: A prospective scanner comparison was performed including 27 patients, of whom 3 patients were excluded because the time interval was >1 h between acquisition of the 1.5 T and 0.55 T MRI. All SWI sequences were assessed for the presence, number, and localization of CMBs by two neuroradiologists and additionally underwent a Likert rating with respect to image impression, resolution, noise, contrast, and diagnostic quality.
Results: A total of 24 patients with a mean age of 74 years were included (11 female). Both readers detected the same number and localization of microbleeds in all 24 datasets (sensitivity and specificity 100%; interreader reliability ϰ = 1), with CMBs only being observed in 12 patients. Likert ratings of the sequences at both field strengths regarding overall image quality and diagnostic quality did not reveal significant differences between the 0.55 T and 1.5 T sequences (p = 0.942; p = 0.672). For resolution and contrast, the 0.55 T sequences were even significantly superior (p < 0.0001; p < 0.0003), whereas the 1.5 T sequences were significantly superior (p < 0.0001) regarding noise.
Conclusion: Low-field MRI at 0.55 T may have similar accuracy as 1.5 T scanners for the detection of microbleeds and thus may have great potential as a resource-efficient alternative in the near future.
Keywords: 0.55 T; MRI; cerebral microbleeds; low-field MRI; reading study; scanner comparison.