MRI displays diversity at RSNA 11

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Lisa Fratt, Editor

As 7T MRI edges into clinical practice, the modality continues to evolve and demonstrate expanded utility in a host of applications. At the 97th Annual Meeting & Scientific Assembly of the RSNA, researchers are addressing the gamut from emerging oncology applications to expanding neurology potential. Presented below is Health Imaging’s snapshot of 2011 in review as it relates to MRI. Scroll down for our top picks for RSNA sessions in MRI, and subscribe to our monthly MRI portal to stay on top of these issues.

Neurology applications of MRI took center stage in 2011. For example, as researchers strive to detect Alzheimer’s disease at earlier stages, when memory preservation may be possible, a study has indicated that automated measurement of temporoparietal brain region volumes via MRI provides an accurate predictor of memory loss in healthy elderly persons. The finding could illustrate a pathway to identification of pre-clinical Alzheimer’s.

Early and accurate diagnosis of behavioral disorders in children remains a critical challenge and MRI may fill voids in several areas. For example, researchers leveraged MRI to show reduction in subcortical brain volume associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  According to the researchers, MRI may provide a way to show ADHD onset among preschool-age children.

Another group of researchers demonstrated that MRI data can be used to differentiate children with autism from neurotypical children, which may ultimately lead to identification of brain-based biomarkers of autism and a clinical, rather than a behavioral, method of diagnosing autism.

Furthermore, as researchers endeavor to unravel the mystery of multiple sclerosis (MS), advanced MRI techniques (double inversion recovery and diffusion-tensor imaging) seem to show promise in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment response of patients MS, according to Italian researchers whose work was published in Radiology in October. Diffusion tensor imaging depicted gray matter damage with high sensitivity, and showed that patients with more severe symptoms had greater damage. Meanwhile, fractional anisotropy was significantly correlated with patients’ scores on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and changes in fractional anisotropy predicted EDSS change.

Other advanced techniques could help physicians better understand Gulf War syndrome. Researchers used arterial spin labeling perfusion MRI combined with a physostigmine challenge to demonstrate persistent and worsening chronic hippocampal dysfunction in the brains of veterans with Gulf War syndromes. The method is more efficient and sensitive than the existing standard of SPECT imaging and could be used to identify veterans for participation in future clinical trials.

Meanwhile, as MRI applications expand, researchers are starting to tap into the first 7T systems. For example, neurologists at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have used 7T MRI to hone in on temporal lobe epilepsy pathology, which may expand the population eligible for surgical treatment.

While neuro applications figured prominently in 2011, researchers continue to demonstrate MRI's value in a range of cardiovascular and oncology applications as well, particularly in breast, prostate and lung cancers.

Read on for Health Imaging’s RSNA MRI review. Subscribe to our MRI portal for the latest in clinical coverage, and please share your MRI success stories and needs with us.

Lisa Fratt, editor