Magnetic resonance susceptibility weighted imaging in neurosurgery: current applications and future perspectives

Antonio Di Ieva*, Timothy Lam, Paula Alcaide-Leon, Aditya Bharatha, Walter Montanera, Michael D. Cusimano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI) is a relatively new imaging technique. Its high sensitivity to hemorrhagic components and ability to depict microvasculature by means of susceptibility effects within the veins allow for the accurate detection, grading, and monitoring of brain tumors. This imaging modality can also detect changes in blood flow to monitor stroke recovery and reveal specific subtypes of vascular malformations. In addition, small punctate lesions can be demonstrated with SWI, suggesting diffuse axonal injury, and the location of these lesions can help predict neurological outcome in patients. This imaging technique is also beneficial for applications in functional neurosurgery given its ability to clearly depict and differentiate deep midbrain nuclei and close submillimeter veins, both of which are necessary for presurgical planning of deep brain stimulation. By exploiting the magnetic susceptibilities of substances within the body, such as deoxyhemoglobin, calcium, and iron, SWI can clearly visualize the vasculature and hemorrhagic components even without the use of contrast agents. The high sensitivity of SWI relative to other imaging techniques in showing tumor vasculature and microhemorrhages suggests that it is an effective imaging modality that provides additional information not shown using conventional MRI. Despite SWI's clinical advantages, its implementation in MRI protocols is still far from consistent in clinical usage. To develop a deeper appreciation for SWI, the authors here review the clinical applications in 4 major fields of neurosurgery: neurooncology, vascular neurosurgery, neurotraumatology, and functional neurosurgery. Finally, they address the limitations of and future perspectives on SWI in neurosurgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1463-1475
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain tumors
  • Diagnostic and operative techniques
  • Functional neurosurgery
  • MRI
  • Neuroradiology
  • Neurotrauma
  • Susceptibility weighted imaging
  • SWI
  • Vascular neurosurgery


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