, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 213–220 | Cite as

Magnetic resonance imaging of the normal pituitary gland using ultrashort TE (UTE) pulse sequences (REV 1.0)

  • Olivia Portman
  • Stephen Flemming
  • Jeremy P. D. Cox
  • Desmond G. Johnston
  • Graeme M. Bydder
Diagnostic Neuroradiology



The purpose of this study was to examine the normal pituitary gland in male subjects with ultrashort echo time (TE) pulse sequences, describe its appearance and measure its signal intensity before and after contrast enhancement.


Eleven male volunteers (mean age 57.1 years; range 36–81 years) were examined with a fat-suppressed ultrashort TE (= 0.08 ms) pulse sequence. The studies were repeated after the administration of intravenous gadodiamide. The MR scans were examined for gland morphology and signal intensity before and after enhancement. Endocrinological evaluation included baseline pituitary function tests and a glucagon stimulatory test to assess pituitary cortisol and growth hormone reserve.


High signal intensity was observed in the anterior pituitary relative to the brain in nine of the 11 subjects. These regions involved the whole of the anterior pituitary in three subjects, were localised to one side in two examples and were seen inferiorly in three subjects. Signal intensities relative to the brain increased with age, with a peak around the sixth or seventh decade and decreasing thereafter. Overall, the pituitary function tests were considered to be within normal limits and did not correlate with pituitary gland signal intensity.


The anterior pituitary shows increased signal intensity in normal subjects when examined with T1-weighted ultrashort TE pulse sequences. The cause of this increased intensity is unknown, but fibrosis and iron deposition are possible candidates. The variation in signal intensity with age followed the temporal pattern of iron content observed at post mortem. No relationship with endocrine status was observed.


Anterior pituitary Magnetic resonance imaging Signal level Ultrashort echo time 


Conflict of interest statement

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivia Portman
    • 1
  • Stephen Flemming
    • 1
  • Jeremy P. D. Cox
    • 1
  • Desmond G. Johnston
    • 1
  • Graeme M. Bydder
    • 2
  1. 1.Endocrinology and Metabolic MedicineImperial College Faculty of Medicine, St Mary’s HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyUniversity of California, San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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