MRI of blood flow of the human retina

Qi Peng, Yi Zhang, Oscar San Emeterio Nateras, Matthias J.P. Van Osch, Timothy Q. Duong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


This study reports a high-resolution MRI approach to image basal blood flow and hypercapnia-induced blood-flow changes in the unanesthetized human retina on a 3-T MRI scanner. Pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling technique with static tissue suppression was implemented to minimize movement artifacts and improve blood-flow sensitivity. Turbo spin-echo acquisition was used to achieve high spatial resolution free of susceptibility artifacts. The size, shape, and position of a custom-made receive radiofrequency coil were optimized for sensitivity in the posterior retina. Synchronized eye blink and respiration to the end of each data readout minimized eye movement and physiological fluctuation. Robust high-contrast blood-flow MRI of the unanesthetized human retina was obtained at 500 × 800 μm2 in-plane resolution. Blood flow in the posterior retina was 93 ± 31 mL/(100 mL min) (mean ± standard deviation, N = 5). Hypercapnic inhalation (5% CO2) increased blood flow by 12 ± 4% relative to air (P < 0.01, N = 5). This study demonstrates the feasibility of blood-flow MRI of the retina of unanesthetized human. Because blood flow is tightly coupled to metabolic function under normal conditions and it is often perturbed in diseases, this approach could provide unique insights into retinal physiology and serve as an objective imaging biomarker for disease staging and testing of novel therapeutic strategies. This approach could open up new avenue of retinal research. Magn Reson Med, 2011.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1768-1775
Number of pages8
JournalMagnetic Resonance in Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • ASL
  • choroids
  • high-resolution MRI
  • hypercapnia
  • retinal vessels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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