In spite of their diagnostic potential, the poor quality of available diffusion-weighted spinal cord images often restricts clinical application to cervical regions, and improved spatial resolution is highly desirable. To address these needs, a novel technique based on the combination of two recently presented reduced field-of-view approaches is proposed, enabling high-resolution acquisition over the entire spinal cord. Field-of-view reduction is achieved by the application of non-coplanar excitation and refocusing pulses combined with outer volume suppression for removal of unwanted transition zones. The non-coplanar excitation is performed such that a gap-less volume is acquired in a dedicated interleaved slice order within two repetition times. The resulting inner volume selectivity was evaluated in vitro.
In vivo diffusion tensor imaging data on the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spinal cord were acquired in transverse
orientation in each of four healthy subjects. An in-plane resolution of 0.7 x 0.7mm2 was achieved without notable
aliasing, motion or susceptibility artifacts. The measured mean +/-SD fractional anisotropy was 0.69 +/- 0.11 in the
thoracic spinal cord and 0.75 +/- 0.07 and 0.63 +/- 0.08 in cervical and lumbar white matter, respectively.