MR imaging of microvasculature.
An imaging technique is proposed in which the contrast is correlated to the morphology of capillaries and other small blood vessels. The technique is based on measurements of the relaxation rates 1/T(2) and 1/T*(2) before and after the injection of a contrast agent. An image is then formed by mapping the quantity Q identical with delta R(2)/(delta R*(2))(2/3), where delta R(2) and delta R*(2) are the changes in the relaxation rates due to the contrast agent. If the contrast agent concentration is sufficiently high, it is shown that Q is given approximately by a simple analytic formula that involves only intrinsic properties of the vascular network and the rate of diffusion. In particular, Q is sensitive to the histologic vessel density. Theoretical predictions for Q are shown to be consistent with experimental data obtained with a rat glioma model and normal cerebral cortex. The imaging technique may be useful in characterizing tumor angiogenesis. Magn Reson Med 44:224-230, 2000. Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.