Ultrafast MRI brain scans sufficient for diagnosing stroke in a hurry

MRI scans completed in just one minute can produce images of decent enough quality to diagnose stroke as well as intracranial abnormalities in patients who can’t hold still for long, including children, according to the authors of a pilot study published online Dec. 7 in the Journal of Neurology.

Kyeong Hwa Ryu, MD, and colleagues at Gyeongsang National University School of Medicine in South Korea reviewed the records of 25 patients imaged with a one-minute MRI scan using variously weighted protocols, including diffusion tensor imaging, over a three-month period.

The researchers used what they called “simple methods”—parallel imaging techniques, multiband technique on diffusion sequence and echo-planar fluid-attenuated inversion recovery—to reduce scan time to the bare minimum.

They then compared the resulting images with images that were acquired in standard brain MRI protocols and augmented by synthetic MRI techniques, which compute measurements of tissue properties from a single acquisition. Two independent readers used a four-point scale to assess image quality between the ultrafast and standard methods.

Unsurprisingly, the authors reported that the standard protocol yielded superior overall image quality and anatomical delineation compared to their experimental ultrafast process. However, the ultrafast protocol “demonstrated sufficient overall image quality and anatomical delineation,” earning an assessment rating from the readers of greater than two points, the authors wrote.

In addition, their ultrafast protocol had fewer artifacts than the routine protocol using synthetic MRI.

The authors suggested their ultrafast brain MRI scan “may be an option in specific clinical situations involving non-cooperative, restless or pediatric patients, or patients with time-critical disease such as stroke.”

They acknowledged that their findings will require further research for validation or refutation.