CF Can Be Diagnosed Without Exposing People to Radiation, Study Says

Joana Fernandes, PhD avatar

by Joana Fernandes, PhD |

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pediatric CF

A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique, called ultrashort echo-time (UTE), can efficiently detect abnormalities in the structure and function of the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), a study reports. This finding suggests that UTE-MRI can be an alternative to current ways of diagnosing CF, which expose patients to radiation.

The study, “Ultrashort Echo-Time Magnetic Resonance Imaging Is a Sensitive Method for the Evaluation of Early Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease,” was published by David Roach, PhD, and colleagues from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Researchers in a clinical trial (MRIinfantCF study, NCT01832519) used the UTE-MRI method to detect abnormal blood flow in the lungs of babies and young children with CF. The study, taking place in Ohio, is currently ongoing and recruiting patients.

It aims to analyze the ability of UTE-MRI to detect lung abnormalities compared to computed tomography (CT) scans, but without the adverse consequences of having the patients under radiation.

The study included 11 pediatric CF patients (median age, 33 months), whose lungs were imaged by UTE MRI and CT, 11 healthy subjects (median age, 23 months) imaged by UTE MRI, and 13 additional patients (median age, 24 months) diagnosed with conditions not affecting the heart or the lungs, and who were considered part of the control group and scanned by CT. Two experienced radiologists validated the results using a well-established score for the evaluation of CF lung disease.

UTE-MRI and CT both provided similar results, detecting such features of the CF lung as bronchiectasis (enlargement of the lung) and thickening of the bronchial wall. These results led the research team to conclude that UTE-MRI is able to detect abnormalities in CF patients in a manner similar to CT scans.

“UTE MRI detected structural lung disease in very young CF patients and provided imaging data that correlated well with CT,” the study’s authors wrote. “By quantifying early CF lung disease without using ionizing radiation, UTE MRI appears well suited for pediatric patients requiring longitudinal imaging for clinical care or research studies.”

If further verified, the UTE-MRI method may replace traditional diagnostic tests that expose patients to certain amounts of radiation during the examinations they undergo throughout their lifetime.