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Optimizing Filter-Probe Diffusion Weighting in the Rat Spinal Cord for Human Translation. Front Neurosci 2017;11:706



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Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a promising biomarker of spinal cord injury (SCI). In the acute aftermath, DTI in SCI animal models consistently demonstrates high sensitivity and prognostic performance, yet translation of DTI to acute human SCI has been limited. In addition to technical challenges, interpretation of the resulting metrics is ambiguous, with contributions in the acute setting from both axonal injury and edema. Novel diffusion MRI acquisition strategies such as double diffusion encoding (DDE) have recently enabled detection of features not available with DTI or similar methods. In this work, we perform a systematic optimization of DDE using simulations and an in vivo rat model of SCI and subsequently implement the protocol to the healthy human spinal cord. First, two complementary DDE approaches were evaluated using an orientationally invariant or a filter-probe diffusion encoding approach. While the two methods were similar in their ability to detect acute SCI, the filter-probe DDE approach had greater predictive power for functional outcomes. Next, the filter-probe DDE was compared to an analogous single diffusion encoding (SDE) approach, with the results indicating that in the spinal cord, SDE provides similar contrast with improved signal to noise. In the SCI rat model, the filter-probe SDE scheme was coupled with a reduced field of view (rFOV) excitation, and the results demonstrate high quality maps of the spinal cord without contamination from edema and cerebrospinal fluid, thereby providing high sensitivity to injury severity. The optimized protocol was demonstrated in the healthy human spinal cord using the commercially-available diffusion MRI sequence with modifications only to the diffusion encoding directions. Maps of axial diffusivity devoid of CSF partial volume effects were obtained in a clinically feasible imaging time with a straightforward analysis and variability comparable to axial diffusivity derived from DTI. Overall, the results and optimizations describe a protocol that mitigates several difficulties with DTI of the spinal cord. Detection of acute axonal damage in the injured or diseased spinal cord will benefit the optimized filter-probe diffusion MRI protocol outlined here.

Author List

Budde MD, Skinner NP, Muftuler LT, Schmit BD, Kurpad SN


Matthew Budde PhD Associate Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Shekar N. Kurpad MD, PhD Chair, Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Lutfi Tugan Muftuler PhD Associate Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Brian Schmit PhD Professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at Marquette University
Nathan Skinner in the CTSI department at Medical College of Wisconsin - CTSI

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