3He lung morphometry technique: Accuracy analysis and pulse sequence optimization

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The 3He lung morphometry technique (Yablonskiy et al., JAP, 2009), based on MRI measurements of hyperpolarized gas diffusion in lung airspaces, provides unique information on the lung microstructure at the alveolar level. 3D tomographic images of standard morphological parameters (mean airspace chord length, lung parenchyma surface-to-volume ratio, and the number of alveoli per unit lung volume) can be created from a rather short (several seconds) MRI scan. These parameters are most commonly used to characterize lung morphometry but were not previously available from in vivo studies. A background of the 3He lung morphometry technique is based on a previously proposed model of lung acinar airways, treated as cylindrical passages of external radius R covered by alveolar sleeves of depth h, and on a theory of gas diffusion in these airways. The initial works approximated the acinar airways as very long cylinders, all with the same R and h. The present work aims at analyzing effects of realistic acinar airway structures, incorporating airway branching, physiological airway lengths, a physiological ratio of airway ducts and sacs, and distributions of R and h. By means of Monte-Carlo computer simulations, we demonstrate that our technique allows rather accurate measurements of geometrical and morphological parameters of acinar airways. In particular, the accuracy of determining one of the most important physiological parameter of lung parenchyma - surface-to-volume ratio - does not exceed several percent. Second, we analyze the effect of the susceptibility induced inhomogeneous magnetic field on the parameter estimate and demonstrate that this effect is rather negligible at B0 ≤ 3T and becomes substantial only at higher B0 Third, we theoretically derive an optimal choice of MR pulse sequence parameters, which should be used to acquire a series of diffusion-attenuated MR signals, allowing a substantial decrease in the acquisition time and improvement in accuracy of the results. It is demonstrated that the optimal choice represents three not equidistant b-values: b1 = 0, b2 ∼ 2 s/cm2, b3 ∼ 8 s/cm 2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Magnetic Resonance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Diffusion MRI
  • Hyperpolarized gas
  • Lung morphometry


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