Semi-automated Segmentation and Quantification of Perivascular Spaces at 7 Tesla in COVID-19

Mackenzie T. Langan, Derek A. Smith, Gaurav Verma, Oleksandr Khegai, Sera Saju, Shams Rashid, Daniel Ranti, Matthew Markowitz, Puneet Belani, Nathalie Jette, Brian Mathew, Jonathan Goldstein, Claudia F.E. Kirsch, Laurel S. Morris, Jacqueline H. Becker, Bradley N. Delman, Priti Balchandani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


While COVID-19 is primarily considered a respiratory disease, it has been shown to affect the central nervous system. Mounting evidence shows that COVID-19 is associated with neurological complications as well as effects thought to be related to neuroinflammatory processes. Due to the novelty of COVID-19, there is a need to better understand the possible long-term effects it may have on patients, particularly linkage to neuroinflammatory processes. Perivascular spaces (PVS) are small fluid-filled spaces in the brain that appear on MRI scans near blood vessels and are believed to play a role in modulation of the immune response, leukocyte trafficking, and glymphatic drainage. Some studies have suggested that increased number or presence of PVS could be considered a marker of increased blood-brain barrier permeability or dysfunction and may be involved in or precede cascades leading to neuroinflammatory processes. Due to their size, PVS are better detected on MRI at ultrahigh magnetic field strengths such as 7 Tesla, with improved sensitivity and resolution to quantify both concentration and size. As such, the objective of this prospective study was to leverage a semi-automated detection tool to identify and quantify differences in perivascular spaces between a group of 10 COVID-19 patients and a similar subset of controls to determine whether PVS might be biomarkers of COVID-19-mediated neuroinflammation. Results demonstrate a detectable difference in neuroinflammatory measures in the patient group compared to controls. PVS count and white matter volume were significantly different in the patient group compared to controls, yet there was no significant association between PVS count and symptom measures. Our findings suggest that the PVS count may be a viable marker for neuroinflammation in COVID-19, and other diseases which may be linked to neuroinflammatory processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number846957
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • 7 T MRI
  • Frangi filter
  • Virchow Robin spaces
  • coronavirus
  • neuroinflammation
  • semiautomated


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