Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used quantitatively to define the characteristics of two different models of experimental cerebral oedema in cats: vasogenic oedema produced by cortical freezing and cytotoxic oedema induced by triethyl tin. The MRI results have been correlated with the ultrastructural changes. The images accurately delineated the anatomical extent of the oedema in the two lesions, but did not otherwise discriminate between them. The patterns of measured increase in T1' and T2' were, however, characteristic for each type of oedema, and reflected the protein content. The magnetisation decay characteristics of both normal and oedematous white matter were monoexponential for T1 but biexponential for T2 decay. The relative sizes of the two component exponentials of the latter corresponded with the physical sizes of the major tissue water compartments. Quantitative MRI data can provide reliable information about the physico-chemical environment of tissue water in normal and oedematous cerebral tissue, and are useful for distinguishing between acute and chronic lesions in multiple sclerosis.
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