Building blocks for thoracic MRI: Challenges, sequences, and protocol design

Constantine A. Raptis, Daniel R. Ludwig, Mark M. Hammer, Antonio Luna, Jordi Broncano, Travis S. Henry, Sanjeev Bhalla, Jeanne B. Ackman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Thoracic MRI presents important and unique challenges. Decreased proton density in the lung in combination with respiratory and cardiac motion can degrade image quality and render poorly executed sequences uninterpretable. Despite these challenges, thoracic MRI has an important clinical role, both as a problem-solving tool and in an increasing array of clinical indications. Advances in scanner and sequence design have also helped to drive this development, presenting the radiologist with improved techniques for thoracic MRI. Given this evolving landscape, radiologists must be familiar with what thoracic MR has to offer. The first step in developing an effective thoracic MRI practice requires the creation of efficient and malleable protocols that can answer clinical questions. To do this, radiologists must have a working knowledge of the MR sequences that are used in the thorax, many of which have been adapted from use elsewhere in the body. These sequences can be broadly divided into three categories: traditional/anatomic, functional, and cine based. Traditional/anatomic sequences allow for the depiction of anatomy and pathologic processes with the ability for characterization of signal intensity and contrast enhancement. Functional sequences, including diffusion-weighted imaging, and high temporal resolution dynamic contrast enhancement, allow for the noninvasive measurement of tissue-specific parameters. Cine-based sequences can depict the motion of structures in the thorax, either with retrospective ECG gating or in real time. The purpose of this article is to review these categories, the building block sequences that comprise them, and identify basic questions that should be considered in thoracic MRI protocol design. Level of Evidence: 5. Technical Efficacy Stage: 3. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2019;50:682–701.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-701
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • chest MRI
  • functional imaging
  • protocol design
  • thoracic MRI


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