We aimed to quantitatively investigate the alteration of parotid perfusion after irradiation using dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) based on a two-compartment tracer kinetic model. This study enrolled 19 patients (53.2 ± 14.9 years) treated by head and neck radiotherapy and 19 age-relevant and sex-matched subjects as a control group. Perfusion parameters (Kel, k21 and A) of parotid glands were analyzed based on the Brix model from T1-weighted DCE-MRI. Suitability of the Brix model was evaluated via Monte Carlo simulation for the goodness-of-fit. Analysis of nonlinear goodness-of-fit showed that the Brix model is appropriate in evaluating the parotid perfusion (R2 = 0.938 ± 0.050). The irradiated parotid glands showed significantly lower Kel(P <0.0005) and k21 (P <0.05) and consequently significantly higher value of peak enhancement (P <0.0005) and time-to-peak (P <0.0005) compared with non-irradiated ones, suggestive of gradual and prolonged accumulation and delayed wash-out of contrast agent due to increased extracellular extravascular space and decreased vascular permeability in the irradiated glands. Linear regression analysis showed dose-dependent perfusion changes of the irradiated parotid glands. We conclude that quantitative DCE-MRI is a potential tool in investigating parotid gland perfusion changes after radiotherapy.
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