Arterial spin labeling (ASL) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful noninvasive technique to investigate the physiological status of brain tissue by measuring cerebral blood flow (CBF). ASL assesses the inflow of magnetically labeled arterial blood into an imaging voxel. In the last 2 decades, various ASL sequences have been proposed which differ in their ease of implementation and their sensitivity to artifacts. In addition, several quantification methods have been developed to determine the absolute value of CBF from ASL magnetization difference images. In this study, we evaluated three pulsed ASL sequences and three absolute quantification schemes. It was found that FAIR-QUIPSSII implementation of ASL yields 10-20% higher signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and 18% higher CBF as compared with PICORE-Q2TIPS (with FOCI pulses) and PICORE-QUIPSSII (with BASSI pulses). In addition, quantification schemes employed can give rise to up to a 35% difference in CBF values. We conclude that, although all quantitative ASL sequences and CBF calibration methods should in principle result in the similar CBF values and image quality, substantial differences in CBF values and SNR were found. Thus, comparing studies using different ASL sequences and analysis algorithms is likely to result in erroneous intra- and intergroup differences. Therefore, (i) the same quantification schemes should consistently be used, and (ii) quantification using local tissue proton density should yield the most accurate CBF values because, although still requiring definitive demonstration in future studies, the proton density of blood is assumed to be very similar to the value of gray matter.
- Arterial spin labeling
- Cerebral blood flow