Characterization of MRI techniques to assess neonatal brain oxygenation and blood flow

Peiying Liu, Charlamaine Parkinson, Dengrong Jiang, Minhui Ouyang, Jill B. De Vis, Frances J. Northington, Aylin Tekes, Hao Huang, Thierry A.G.M. Huisman, W. Christopher Golden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing interest in applying physiological MRI in neonates, based on the premise that physiological parameters may provide an early biomarker of neonatal brain health and injury. Two commonly used techniques are oxygen extraction fraction (OEF) measurement using T2-relaxation-under-spin-tagging (TRUST) MRI and cerebral blood flow measurement using phase-contrast (PC) quantitative flow MRI, which collectively provide an assessment of the brain's oxygen consumption. However, prior research has only demonstrated proof of principle of these methods in neonates, without characterization or benchmarking of the techniques. This is because available time is limited in neonatal subjects, especially when scans are performed as add-ons to clinical scans (typically less than 5 min). The work presented aims to examine the TRUST and PC MRI sequences systematically in normal neonates, through research-dedicated scan sessions. A series of characterization and optimization studies were conducted in a total of 26 radiographically normal neonates on 3 T systems. Our results show that TRUST MRI at the superior sagittal sinus (SSS) provides an OEF measurement equivalent to that at the internal jugular vein (r = 0.80, n = 10), yet with shorter scan time. Lower resolution provided better precision in the TRUST measurement (p = 0.001, n = 9). Therefore, the preferred OEF measurement is to apply TRUST MRI at the SSS using a spatial resolution of 2.5 mm. For PC MRI, our results showed that non-gated PC MRI yielded blood flow measurements comparable to those from the more time-consuming gated approach in neonates (r = 0.89, n = 7). It was also found that blood flow could be overestimated by 18% when imaging resolution is larger than 0.3 mm (n = 7). Therefore, non-gated PC MRI with a spatial resolution of 0.3 mm is recommended for neonatal applications. In conclusion, this study verifies consistency of neonatal brain oxygenation and flow measurements across acquisition schemes and points to optimal strategies in parameter selection when using these sequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere4103
JournalNMR in biomedicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • cerebral blood flow
  • cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen
  • neonates
  • oxygen extraction fraction
  • phase-contrast MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Spectroscopy


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