Measurement of diffusion and its dependence on direction has become an important tool for clinical and research studies of the brain. Diffusion imaging of the spinal cord may likewise prove useful as an indicator of tissue damage and axonal integrity; however, it is more challenging to perform diffusion imaging in the cord than in the brain. Here we report a study of the effects of motion on single-shot fast spin echo (FSE) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the spinal cord. Diffusion imaging was performed at four different times in the cardiac cycle both without and with velocity compensation of the diffusion gradients. Uncompensated diffusion images demonstrated substantial signal loss artifacts in the cord that were strongly dependent on the delay after the pulse-oximeter trigger. Quantitative diffusion analysis was also strongly affected by this motion artifact. The use of flow-compensated gradients helped to restore normal signal in the cord, especially at particular trigger delays. Theoretical arguments suggest that improved spatial resolution may help eliminate this signal loss. Even with higher spatial resolution, motion-related signal attenuation may still occur in diffusion imaging of pathologies that alter the motion of the cord. However, this same cord motion may contain diagnostically valuable information when probed using appropriate diffusion imaging approaches.
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