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Prashant Chittiboina, S. Lalith Talagala, Hellmut Merkle, Joelle E. Sarlls, Blake K. Montgomery, Martin G. Piazza, Gretchen Scott, Abhik Ray-Chaudhury, Russell R. Lonser, Edward H. Oldfield, Alan P. Koretsky and John A. Butman


Pituitary MR imaging fails to detect over 50% of microadenomas in Cushing's disease and nearly 80% of cases of dural microinvasion. Surface coils can generate exceptionally high-resolution images of the immediately adjacent tissues. To improve imaging of the pituitary gland, a receive-only surface coil that can be placed within the sphenoid sinus (the endosphenoidal coil [ESC]) during transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) was developed and assessed.


Five cadaver heads were used for preclinical testing of the ESC. The ESC (a double-turn, 12-mm-diameter surface coil made from 1-mm-diameter copper wire) was developed to obtain images in a 1.5-T MR scanner. The ESC was placed (via a standard sublabial TSS approach) on the anterior sella face. Clinical MR scans were obtained using the 8-channel head coil and ESC as the receiver coils. Using the ESC, ultra–high-resolution, 3D, balanced fast field echo (BFFE) and T1-weighted imaging were performed at resolutions of 0.25 × 0.25 × 0.50 mm3 and 0.15 × 0.15 × 0.30 mm3, respectively.


Region-of-interest analysis indicated a 10-fold increase in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the pituitary when using the ESC compared with the 8-channel head coil. ESC-related improvements (p < 0.01) in the SNR were inversely proportional to the distance from the ESC tip to the anterior pituitary gland surface. High-resolution BFFE MR imaging obtained using ESC revealed a number of anatomical features critical to pituitary surgery that were not visible on 8-channel MR imaging, including the pituitary capsule, the intercavernous sinus, and microcalcifications in the pars intermedia. These ESC imaging findings were confirmed by the pathological correlation with whole-mount pituitary sections.


ESC can significantly improve SNR in the sellar region intraoperatively using current 1.5-T MR imaging platforms. Improvement in SNR can provide images of the sella and surrounding structures with unprecedented resolution. Clinical use of this ESC may allow for MR imaging detection of previously occult pituitary adenomas and identify microscopic invasion of the dura or cavernous sinus.