BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Intracranial vessel wall imaging using MRI has great potential as a clinical method for assessing intracranial atherosclerosis. The purpose of the current study was to compare three 3T MRI vessel wall sequences with different contrast weightings (T1w, PD, T2w) and dedicated sagittal orientation perpendicular to the middle cerebral artery, to the reconstructed sagittal image from a transverse 3D T1w volumetric isotropically reconstructed turbo spin-echo acquisition (VIRTA), and provide a clinical recommendation.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The above-mentioned sequences were acquired in 10 consecutive Chinese ischemic stroke or TIA patients (age: 68 years, sex: 4 females) with angiographic-confirmed MCA stenosis at 3T. Institutional review board approval was obtained. Two raters qualitatively scored all images on overall image quality, presence of artifacts, and visibility of plaques. Data were compared using Repeated measures ANOVA and Sidak's adjusted post hoc tests.
RESULTS: All sequences except the T2w sequence were able to depict the walls of the large vessels of the Circle of Willis (p<0.05). T1w sagittal oblique VIRTA showed significantly more artifacts (p<0.01). Peripherally located plaques were sometimes missed on the sagittal sequences, but could be appreciated on the transverse T1w VIRTA.
CONCLUSION: With the 3T multi-sequence vessel wall protocol we were able to assess the intracranial plaque with two different image contrast weightings. The sequence of preference to include in a clinical protocol would be the transverse 3D T1w VIRTA based on absence of artifacts, larger coverage including the whole Circle of Willis, and excellent lesion depiction.