St. Louis, Aug. 9, 1999 -- Putting a new twist on an imaging technique, researchers now are able to identify tiny, malformed blood vessels in the brain that usually are missed by traditional imaging tests. The results may lead to more appropriate treatment of children and adults affected by these rare malformations, which can cause seizures, strokes and other neurological problems if left untreated.
The brain relies on a dense network of arteries and veins to remain healthy. The arteries bring oxygen to fuel neural activities, and the veins remove waste products from the brain. However, some people are born with webs of abnormal blood vessels in the brain that can grow larger with time, or they develop these masses as they age. It is unknown how common the masses are because they are difficult to image and are rarely discovered until they produce neurological problems by leaking or pressing on brain structures.
Using a variation of traditional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were able to obtain detailed information on blood vessel malformations in nine of 10 patients suspected of having the abnormalities. Traditional MRI revealed abnormal vessels in only seven patients and failed to provide sharp enough images to detect the extent of lesions in two instances.
Benjamin C.P. Lee, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and radiology, was lead author of the study, which is published in the August issue of the American Journal of Neuroradiology. He also is a diagnostic radiologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The variation of MRI used in the study was developed by a team of investigators at the medical school's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.
The new imaging method is an offshoot of functional MRI, which also was
developed at the medical school. Functional MRI highlights increased levels of
oxygen in vessels within active regions o
Contact: Barbra Rodrigues
Washington University School of Medicine