Helium-3 Diffusion MR Imaging of the Human Lung Over Multiple Time Scales

John P. Mugler, Chengbo Wang, G. Wilson Miller, Gordon D. Cates, Jaime F. Mata, James R. Brookeman, Eduard E. de Lange, Talissa A. Altes

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale and Objectives: Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with hyperpolarized 3He gas is a powerful technique for probing the characteristics of the lung microstructure. A key parameter for this technique is the diffusion time, which is the period during which the atoms are allowed to diffuse within the lung for measurement of the signal attenuation. The relationship between diffusion time and the length scales that can be explored is discussed, and representative, preliminary results are presented from ongoing studies of the human lung for diffusion times ranging from milliseconds to several seconds. Materials and Methods: 3He diffusion MRI of the human lung was performed on a 1.5T Siemens Sonata scanner. Using gradient echo-based and stimulated echo-based techniques for short and medium-to-long diffusion times, respectively, measurements were performed for times ranging from 2 milliseconds to 6.5 seconds in two healthy subjects, a subject with subclinical chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a subject with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Results: In healthy subjects, the apparent diffusion coefficient decreased by about 10-fold, from approximately 0.2 to 0.02 cm2/second, as the diffusion time increased from approximately 1 millisecond to 1 second. Results in subjects with disease suggest that measurements made at diffusion times substantially longer than 1 millisecond may provide improved sensitivity for detecting certain pathologic changes in the lung microstructure. Conclusions: With appropriately designed pulse sequences it is possible to explore the diffusion of hyperpolarized 3He in the human lung over more than a 1,000-fold variation of the diffusion time. Such measurements provide a new opportunity for exploring and characterizing the microstructure of the healthy and diseased lung.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-701
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Radiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • MRI of lung
  • diffusion MRI
  • hyperpolarized helium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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