This paper describes the development and optimization of an innovative technique using an external surface coil to obtain high resolution, thin section MR images of the oesophagus using volunteers. T2 weighted fast spin echo sequences were performed with and without cardiac gating. The field of view (FOV), matrix size, slice thickness, number of signal averages (NSA), and repetition time (TR)/echo time (TE) were altered to optimize signal to noise ratio (SNR) whilst maintaining spatial resolution. The effect of cardiac gating was also investigated. Workstation images were evaluated on the ability to visualize: individual oesophageal wall layers; perioesophageal fat; the azygos vein and wall of the descending aorta, giving qualitative assessment of image clarity. The optimum sequence enabled the layers of the oesophageal wall and perioesophageal tissues to be demonstrated in an acceptable scan time of 7.07 min. A FOV of less than 250 mm degraded image quality so that individual oesophageal wall layers could not be depicted and noise within the image impaired visualization of posterior mediastinal structures. The results indicate that high resolution imaging of the oesophagus using an external surface coil can depict anatomic structures clearly and that the use of cardiac gating improves image clarity. The technique offers an alternative, non-invasive method of detailed imaging of the oesophagus.
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