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Detection of Pulmonary tuberculosis: comparing MR imaging with HRCT

Elisa Busi Rizzi1*, Vincenzo Schinina'1, Massimo Cristofaro1, Delia Goletti2, Fabrizio Palmieri3, Nazario Bevilacqua3, Francesco N Lauria3, Enrico Girardi4 and Corrado Bibbolino1

Author Affiliations

1 Diagnostic Department, Radiology. "L. Spallanzani" National Institute for Infectious Diseases Rome ITALY

2 Research Department, Translational Research Unit. "L. Spallanzani" National Institute for Infectious Diseases Rome ITALY

3 Clinical Department. National Institute for Infectious Diseases "L. Spallanzani" Rome

4 Epidemiology Department, "L. Spallanzani" National Institute for Infectious Diseases Rome ITALY

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:243  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-243

Published: 16 September 2011



Computer Tomography (CT) is considered the gold standard for assessing the morphological changes of lung parenchyma. Although novel CT techniques have substantially decreased the radiation dose, radiation exposure is still high. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been established as a radiation- free alternative to CT for several lung diseases, but its role in infectious diseases still needs to be explored further. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to compare MRI with high resolution CT (HRCT) for assessing pulmonary tuberculosis.


50 patients with culture-proven pulmonary tuberculosis underwent chest HRCT as the standard of reference and were evaluated by MRI within 24 h after HRCT. Altogether we performed 60 CT and MRI examinations, because 10 patients were also examined by CT and MRI at follow- up. Pulmonary abnormalities, their characteristics, location and distribution were analyzed by two readers who were blinded to the HRCT results.


Artifacts did not interfere with the diagnostic value of MRI. Both HRCT and MRI correctly diagnosed pulmonary tuberculosis and identified pulmonary abnormalities in all patients. There were no significant differences between the two techniques in terms of identifying the location and distribution of the lung lesions, though the higher resolution of MRI did allow for better identification of parenchymal dishomogeneity, caseosis, and pleural or nodal involvement.


Technical developments and the refinement of pulse sequences have improved the quality and speed of MRI. Our data indicate that in terms of identifying lung lesions in non-AIDS patients with non- miliary pulmonary tuberculosis, MRI achieves diagnostic performances comparable to those obtained by HRCT but with better and more rapid identification of pulmonary tissue abnormalities due to the excellent contrast resolution.