OBJECTIVE. The aim of this study was to evaluate MR imaging changes of the pancreas in patients with transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia major. SUBJECTS AND METHODS. Twenty patients with transfusion-dependent β- thalassemia major were examined using MR imaging at 0.5 T, with spin-echo T1- weighted, fast spin-echo T2-weighted, and gradient-echo T2*-weighted sequences. Image analysis was performed to assess pancreas-to-fat signal intensity ratios for all pulse sequences. Pancreatic exocrine and endocrine function and serum ferritin levels were assessed. Twenty healthy volunteers underwent MR imaging with the same three sequences and served as a control group. RESULTS. The pancreas-to-fat signal intensity ratio was significantly decreased in 17 (85%) of the 20 patients on spin-echo T1-weighted images (p < .05), fast spin-echo T2-weighted images (p < .01), and gradient-echo T2*- weighted images (p < .01) when compared with the 20 volunteers in the control group. The pancreas-to-fat signal intensity ratio was significantly increased in three (15%) of the 20 patients on spin-echo T1-weighted images (p < .01) and fast spin-echo T2-weighted images (p < .05). In addition, in the 20 patients, we found a significant correlation between increased pancreas-to- fat signal intensity ratios and decreased serum trypsin levels (r = -.77, p < .01 for spin-echo T1-weighted sequences; r = -.75, p < .05 for fast spin- echo T2-weighted sequences; and r = -.74, p < .05 for gradient-echo T2*- weighted sequences). Likewise, for the 20 patients, we found a significant correlation between decreased pancreas-to-fat signal intensity ratios and increased serum ferritin levels for gradient-echo T2*-weighted images (r = - .65, p < .01). No correlation was found for the other clinical parameters evaluated. CONCLUSION. MR imaging revealed signal intensity changes in the pancreas of patients with transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia major. Patients with a major impairment of the exocrine pancreatic function had higher signal intensity of the pancreas because of fatty replacement of the parenchyma.
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging