Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with 3He does not require ionizing radiation and has been shown to detect regional abnormalities in lung ventilation and structure in adults with asthma, but the method has not been extended to children with asthma. Measurements of regional lung ventilation and microstructure in subjects with childhood asthma could advance our understanding of disease mechanisms. Objective: We sought to determine whether 3He MRI in children can identify abnormalities related to the diagnosis of asthma or prior history of respiratory illness. Methods: Forty-four children aged 9 to 10 years were recruited from a birth cohort at increased risk of asthma and allergic diseases. For each subject, a time-resolved 3-dimensional image series and a 3-dimensional diffusion-weighted image were acquired in separate breathing maneuvers. The numbers and sizes of ventilation defects were scored, and regional maps and statistics of average 3He diffusion lengths were calculated. Results: Children with mild-to-moderate asthma had lower average root-mean-square diffusion length ( Xrms̄) values (P = .004), increased regional SD of diffusion length values (P = .03), and higher defect scores (P = .03) than those without asthma. Children with histories of wheezing illness with rhinovirus infection before the third birthday had lower Xrms̄ values (P = .01) and higher defect scores (P = .05). Conclusion: MRI with 3He detected more and larger regions of ventilation defect and a greater degree of restricted gas diffusion in children with asthma compared with those seen in children without asthma. These measures are consistent with regional obstruction and smaller and more regionally variable dimensions of the peripheral airways and alveolar spaces.
- apparent diffusion coefficient
- hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging