BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Geometric distortions resulting from large pose changes reduce the accuracy of motion measurements and interfere with the ability to generate artifact-free information. Our goal is to develop an algorithm and pulse sequence to enable motion-compensated, geometric distortion compensated diffusion-weighted MRI, and to evaluate its efficacy in correcting for the field inhomogeneity and position changes, induced by large and frequent head motions.
METHODS: Dual echo planar imaging (EPI) with a blip-reversed phase encoding distortion correction technique was evaluated in five volunteers in two separate experiments and compared with static field map distortion correction. In the first experiment, dual-echo EPI images were acquired in two head positions designed to induce a large field inhomogeneity change. A field map and a distortion-free structural image were acquired at each position to assess the ability of dual-echo EPI to generate reliable field maps and enable geometric distortion correction in both positions. In the second experiment, volunteers were asked to move to multiple random positions during a diffusion scan. Images were reconstructed using the dual-echo correction and a slice-to-volume registration (SVR) registration algorithm. The accuracy of SVR motion estimates was compared to externally measured ground truth motion parameters.
RESULTS: Our results show that dual-echo EPI can produce slice-level field maps with comparable quality to field maps generated by the reference gold standard method. We also show that slice-level distortion correction improves the accuracy of SVR algorithms as slices acquired at different orientations have different levels of distortion, which can create errors in the registration process.
CONCLUSIONS: Dual-echo acquisitions with blip-reversed phase encoding can be used to generate slice-level distortion-free images, which is critical for motion-robust slice to volume registration. The distortion corrected images not only result in better motion estimates, but they also enable a more accurate final diffusion image reconstruction.