Spine MRI is a diagnostic modality for evaluating pediatric CNS tumors. Applying diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) or diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to the spine poses challenges due to intrinsic spinal anatomy that exacerbates various image-related artifacts, such as signal dropouts or pileups, geometrical distortions, and incomplete fat suppression. The zonal oblique multislice (ZOOM)–echo-planar imaging (EPI) technique reduces geometric distortion and image blurring by reducing the field of view (FOV) without signal aliasing into the FOV. The authors hypothesized that the ZOOM-EPI method for spine DTI in concert with conventional spinal MRI is an efficient method for augmenting the evaluation of pediatric spinal tumors.
Thirty-eight consecutive patients (mean age 8 years) who underwent ZOOM-EPI spine DTI for CNS tumor workup were retrospectively identified. Patients underwent conventional spine MRI and ZOOM-EPI DTI spine MRI. Two blinded radiologists independently reviewed two sets of randomized images: conventional spine MRI without ZOOM-EPI DTI, and conventional spine MRI with ZOOM-EPI DTI. For both image sets, the reviewers scored the findings based on lesion conspicuity and diagnostic confidence using a 5-point Likert scale. The reviewers also recorded presence of tumors. Quantitative apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) measurements of various spinal tumors were extracted. Tractography was performed in a subset of patients undergoing presurgical evaluation.
Sixteen patients demonstrated spinal tumor lesions. The readers were in moderate agreement (kappa = 0.61, 95% CI 0.30–0.91). The mean scores for conventional MRI and combined conventional MRI and DTI were as follows, respectively: 3.0 and 4.0 for lesion conspicuity (p = 0.0039), and 2.8 and 3.9 for diagnostic confidence (p < 0.001). ZOOM-EPI DTI identified new lesions in 3 patients. In 3 patients, tractography used for neurosurgical planning showed characteristic fiber tract projections. The mean weighted ADCs of low- and high-grade tumors were 1201 × 10−6 and 865 × 10−6 mm2/sec (p = 0.002), respectively; the mean minimum weighted ADCs were 823 × 10−6 and 474 × 10−6 mm2/sec (p = 0.0003), respectively.
Diffusion MRI with ZOOM-EPI can improve the detection of spinal lesions while providing quantitative diffusion information that helps distinguish low- from high-grade tumors. By adding a 2-minute DTI scan, quantitative diffusion information and tract profiles can reliably be obtained and serve as a useful adjunct to presurgical planning for pediatric spinal tumors.