BACKGROUND: The quality of carotid wall MRI can benefit substantially from a dedicated RF coil that is tailored towards the human neck geometry and optimized for image signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), parallel imaging performance and RF penetration depth and coverage. In last decades, several of such dedicated carotid coils were introduced. However, a comparison of the more successful designs is still lacking.
OBJECTIVE: To perform a head-to-head comparison over four dedicated MR carotid surface coils with 4, 6, 8 and 30 coil elements, respectively.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Ten volunteers were scanned on a 3T scanner. For each subject, multiple black-blood carotid vessel wall images were measured using the four coils with different parallel imaging settings. The performance of the coils was evaluated and compared in terms of image coverage, penetration depth and noise correlations between elements. Vessel wall of a common carotid section was delineated manually. Subsequently, images were assessed based on vessel wall morphology and image quality parameters. The morphological parameters consisted of the vessel wall area, thickness, and normalized wall index (wall area/total vessel area). Image quality parameters consisted of vessel wall SNR, wall-lumen contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), the vessel g-factor, and CNRindex ((wall-lumen signal) / (wall+lumen signal)). Repeated measures analysis of variance (rmANOVA) was applied for each parameter for the averaged 10 slices for all volunteers to assess effect of coil and SENSE factor. If the rmANOVA was significant, post-hoc comparisons were conducted.
RESULTS: No significant coil effect were found for vessel wall morphological parameters. SENSE acceleration affected some morphological parameters for 6- and 8-channel coils, but had no effect on the 30-channel coil. The 30-channel coil achieved high acceleration factors (10x) with significantly lower vessel g-factor values (ps ≤ 0.01), but lower vessel wall SNR and CNR values (ps ≤ 0.01).
CONCLUSION: All four coils were capable of high-quality carotid MRI. The 30-channel coil is recommended when rapid image acquisition acceleration is required for 3D measurements, whereas 6- and 8-channel coils demonstrated the highest SNR performance.