Characterizing pulmonary blood flow distribution measured using arterial spin labeling

A. Cortney Henderson, G. Kim Prisk, David L. Levin, Susan R. Hopkins, Richard B. Buxton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The arterial spin labeling (ASL) method provides images in which, ideally, the signal intensity of each image voxel is proportional to the local perfusion. For studies of pulmonary perfusion, the relative dispersion (RD, standard deviation/mean) of the ASL signal across a lung section is used as a reliable measure of flow heterogeneity. However, the RD of the ASL signals within the lung may systematically differ from the true RD of perfusion because the ASL image also includes signals from larger vessels, which can reflect the blood volume rather than blood flow if the vessels are filled with tagged blood during the imaging time. Theoretical studies suggest that the pulmonary vasculature exhibits a lognormal distribution for blood flow and thus an appropriate measure of heterogeneity is the geometric standard deviation (GSD). To test whether the ASL signal exhibits a lognormal distribution for pulmonary blood flow, determine whether larger vessels play an important role in the distribution, and extract physiologically relevant measures of heterogeneity from the ASL signal, we quantified the ASL signal before and after an intervention (head-down tilt) in six subjects. The distribution of ASL signal was better characterized by a lognormal distribution than a normal distribution, reducing the mean squared error by 72% (p<0.005). Head-down tilt significantly reduced the lognormal scale parameter (p=0.01) but not the shape parameter or GSD. The RD increased post-tilt and remained significantly elevated (by 17%, p<0.05). Test case results and mathematical simulations suggest that RD is more sensitive than the GSD to ASL signal from tagged blood in larger vessels, a probable explanation of the change in RD without a statistically significant change in GSD. This suggests that the GSD is a useful measure of pulmonary blood flow heterogeneity with the advantage of being less affected by the ASL signal from tagged blood in larger vessels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1035
Number of pages11
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2009


  • Arterial spin labeling
  • Lognormal
  • Pulmonary blood flow
  • Relative dispersion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Spectroscopy


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