Water content and water structure in CT and MR signal changes: Possible influence in detection of early stroke

E. Unger, J. Littlefield, M. Gado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Recent work by the authors and others has shown that MR imaging is more sensitive than CT in the detection of acute stroke. To separate the effects of water content and water structure on MR signal intensity, we undertook two sets of experiments that used simple model systems: gelatin gels with increasing water content and hardened hens' eggs. CT and MR were performed on both systems. On CT there was a direct linear relationship between CT attenuation (Hounsfield units) and the specific gravity of the gelatin gels, and an inverse relationship with water content. There was only a minimal change in the specific gravity of egg samples with hardening and, as expected on CT, no change in linear attenuation accompanying hardening. On MR there was a linear relationship between water content in gelatin gels and spin-lattice (T1) relaxation time (r = .92, p < .01) and spin-spin (T2) relaxation time (r = .91, p < .05). However, these changes were insufficient to explain the changes of signal intensity that occur in the brain with infarction. The simple cellular system with hens' eggs demonstrated that shortening of T1 and T2 accompanied egg hardening with minimal change in water content; the shift of water from bulk water to a bound or structured form was probably the basis of this phenomenon. We found that water structure and not merely water content is a significant mechanism underlying relaxation time changes and signal intensity changes in acute stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-691
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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