Multiple spin echoes for the evaluation of trabecular bone quality

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We report a simple and efficient MR method for the evaluation of trabecular bone quality. This technique is based on detection and imaging of Multiple Spin-Echoes (MSE), a manifestation of the dipolar field generated by residual intermolecular dipolar couplings in liquids. In the particular implementation we have used, originally proposed by Bowtell [J. Magn. Reson. 100 (1992) 1; J. Magn. Reson. 88 (1990) 643; Phys. Rev. Lett. 76 (1996) 4971]. multiple spin echoes (MSE) are refocused in a two-pulse experiment in the presence of a correlation linear magnetic field gradient Gc. This gradient generates a magnetisation helix and results in the spatial modulation of the sample magnetisation. In heterogeneous systems, the amplitude of the MSE signal depends on sample heterogeneity over a distanced= π.(γ/Gcτ) which is half a cycle of the magnetisation helix, thus providing a novel contrast mechanism that can be tuned to a specific length scale. We have exploited this mechanism to study young bovine trabecular bone samples ex-vivo. We show that MSE images present a different contrast from conventional MR images, and that, by varying the experimental parameters, the image contrast can be related to specific trabecular pore sizes. The potential of this technique for the early diagnosis of osteoporotic diseases is discussed.