Imaging the kidney using magnetic resonance techniques: structure to function

Mahmoud, Huda, Buchanan, Charlotte, Francis, Susan T. and Selby, Nicholas M. (2016) Imaging the kidney using magnetic resonance techniques: structure to function. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension, 25 (6). pp. 487-493. ISSN 1473-6543

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Purpose of review

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers the possibility to non-invasively assess both the structure and function of the kidney in a single MR scan session. This review summarises recent advancements in functional renal MRI techniques, with a particular focus on their clinical relevance.

Recent findings

A number of MRI techniques have been developed that provide non-invasive measures of relevance to the pathophysiology of kidney disease. Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) has been used in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and renal transplantation, and appears promising as a measure of renal impairment and fibrosis. Longitudinal relaxation time (T1) mapping has been utilised in cardiac MRI to measure fibrosis and oedema; recent work suggests its potential for assessment of the kidney. Blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) MRI to measure renal oxygenation has been extensively studied, but a number of other factors affect results making it hard to draw definite conclusions as to its utility as an independent measure. Phase contrast and arterial spin labelling (ASL) can measure renal artery blood flow and renal perfusion respectively without exogenous contrast, in contrast to dynamic contrast enhanced (DCE) studies. Current data on clinical use of such functional renal MR measures is largely restricted to cross-sectional studies.


Renal MRI has seen significant recent interest and advances. Current evidence demonstrates its potential, and next steps include wider evaluation of its clinical application.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a non-final version of an article published in final form in Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension, v. 25(6), p. 487-493.
Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion-weighted imaging, diffusion-tensor imaging, blood oxygen level dependent MRI, arterial spin labelling, dynamic contrast enhanced MRI, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, transplantation
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine > Division of Medical Sciences and Graduate Entry Medicine
University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Science > School of Physics and Astronomy
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Francis, Susan
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2016 11:48
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:14

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