BACKGROUND: Projection radiography (XR) is often supplemented by both CT (to evaluate osseous structures with ionizing radiation) and MRI (for marrow and soft-tissue assessment). Zero echo time (ZTE) MR imaging produces a "CT-like" osseous contrast that might obviate CT.OBJECTIVE: This study investigated our institution's initial experience in implementing an isotropic ZTE MR imaging sequence for pediatric musculoskeletal examinations.MATERIALS AND METHODS: Pediatric patients referred for extremity MRI at 3tesla (T) underwent ZTE MR imaging to yield images with contrast similar to that of CT. A radiograph-like image was also created with ray-sum image processing. We assessed ZTE-CT/XR anatomical image quality (Sanat) from 0 (nondiagnostic) to 5 (outstanding). Further, we made image comparisons on a 5-point scale (Scomp) (range of -2 = conventional CT/XR greater anatomical delineation to +2 = ZTE-CT/XR greater anatomical delineation; 0=same) for three cohorts: (1) ZTE-XR to conventional radiography, (2) ZTE-CT to conventional CT and (3) pathological lesion assessment on ZTE-XR to conventional radiography. We measured cortical thickness of ZTE-XR and ZTE-CT and compared these with conventional imaging. We calculated confidence interval of proportions, Wilcoxon rank sum test and intraclass correlation coefficients for inter-reader agreement.RESULTS: Cohorts 1, 2 and 3 consisted of 40, 20 and 35 cases, respectively (age range 0.6-23.0years). ZTE-CT versus CT and ZTE-XR versus radiography of cortical thicknesses were not significantly different (P=0.55 and P=0.31, respectively). Cortical delineation was rated diagnostic or better (score of 3, 4 or 5) in all cases (confidence interval of proportions = 100%) for ZTE-CT/XR. Similarly, intramedullary cavity delineation was rated diagnostic or better in all cases for ZTE-CT, and ZTE-XR was at least diagnostic in 58-63% of cases. For cohort 2, cortex and intramedullary cavity Scomp for ZTE-CT was comparable to those of conventional CT, with confidence interval of proportion (sum of score of -1 to +2) of 93-100% and 95%, respectively. Pathology visualized on ZTE-CT/XR was comparable; Scomp confidence interval of proportions was 95%/97-100%, with improved delineation of non-displaced fractures on ZTE-XR. Readers had moderate to near-perfect intraclass correlation coefficient (range=0.60-0.93).CONCLUSION: Implementation of a diagnostic-quality ZTE MRI sequence in the pediatric population is feasible and can be performed as a complementary pulse sequence to enhance musculoskeletal MRI studies. Compared to conventional CT, ZTE has comparable cortical delineation, intramedullary cavity and pathology visualization. While not intended as a replacement for conventional radiography, ZTE-XR provides similar visualization of pathology.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00247-021-05125-5
View details for PubMedID 34156504