Noninvasive assessment of renal fibrosis by magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound techniques.


Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. Electronic address: [Email]


Renal fibrosis is a useful biomarker for diagnosis and guidance of therapeutic interventions of chronic kidney disease (CKD), a worldwide disease that affects more than 10% of the population and is one of the major causes of death. Currently, tissue biopsy is the gold standard for assessment of renal fibrosis. However, it is invasive, and prone to sampling error and observer variability, and may also result in complications. Recent advances in diagnostic imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasonography, have shown promise for noninvasive assessment of renal fibrosis. These imaging techniques measure renal fibrosis by evaluating its impacts on the functional, mechanical, and molecular properties of the kidney, such as water mobility by diffusion MRI, tissue hypoxia by blood oxygenation level dependent MRI, renal stiffness by MR and ultrasound elastography, and macromolecule content by magnetization transfer imaging. Other MR techniques, such as T1/T2 mapping and susceptibility-weighted imaging have also been explored for measuring renal fibrosis. Promising findings have been reported in both preclinical and clinical studies using these techniques. Nevertheless, limited specificity, sensitivity, and practicality in these techniques may hinder their immediate application in clinical routine. In this review, we will introduce methodologies of these techniques, outline their applications in fibrosis imaging, and discuss their limitations and pitfalls.