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DTI Tweak Creates Detailed 3-D Muscle Images

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A new MRI technique allows detailed 3-D imaging of complex muscle structures. On Monday, it won Martijn Froeling a PhD from Eindhoven University of Technology in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Dr. Froeling tweaked the MRI variation known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). A university news release says he “improved the data acquisition process—the way the MRI scanner images the muscle under examination. … He also improved the processing of the acquired data into reliable 3-D images.”

According to the release:

No new equipment was needed; the researchers used standard widely available clinical systems.

Dr. Froeling used a 3 tesla scanner. In his PhD dissertation, DTI of Human Skeletal Muscle: From Simulation to Clinical Implementation, he suggests that a 7 tesla machine would work even better for balancing the tradeoffs among signal-to-noise ratio, image acquisition time, and spatial resolution.

You can find an abstract of the 229-page dissertation here. For details on Dr. Froeling’s algorithms and other imaging-processing magic, download the full dissertation here. (It will take a while; it’s a 108-megabyte file with lots of images.)

Dr. Froeling tried out his new technique on distance runners. He imaged their thighs a week before, two days after, and three weeks after a marathon. His images revealed muscle damage immediately after the race that was still visible three weeks later, even though many of the runners no longer reported any pain.

He also imaged the complex muscle structure of the female pelvic floor. The news release includes  a 3-D video of the result. Eindhoven University of Technology and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam plan to use Dr. Froeling’s techniques to study post-polio syndrome and spinal muscular atrophy.

In his thesis, Dr. Froeling suggests that the new technique could even be used to image a beating heart. “This will be critical,” he says, “if the use of DTI is to be extended to patients with cardiovascular disease and limited breath-hold capacity.”

Expect to hear a lot more about new uses for DTI.

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Related seminar: UCSF Musculoskeletal MR Imaging

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