PURPOSE: To evaluate the feasibility of using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) to assess the fetal lung apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) at 3 Tesla (T).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Seventy-one pregnant women (32 second trimester, 39 third trimester) were scanned with a twice-refocused Echo-planar diffusion-weighted imaging sequence with 6 different b-values in 3 orthogonal diffusion orientations at 3T. After each scan, a region-of-interest (ROI) mask was drawn to select a region in the fetal lung and an automated robust maximum likelihood estimation algorithm was used to compute the ADC parameter. The amount of motion in each scan was visually rated.
RESULTS: When scans with unacceptable levels of motion were eliminated, the lung ADC values showed a strong association with gestational age (P < 0.01), increasing dramatically between 16 and 27 weeks and then achieving a plateau around 27 weeks.
CONCLUSION: We show that to get reliable estimates of ADC values of fetal lungs, a multiple b-value acquisition, where motion is either corrected or considered, can be performed. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2016;44:1650-1655.
Simultaneous multi-slice (SMS) echo-planar imaging has had a huge impact on the acceleration and routine use of diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) in neuroimaging studies in particular the human connectome project; but also holds the potential to facilitate DWI of moving subjects, as proposed by the new technique developed in this paper. We present a novel registration-based motion tracking technique that takes advantage of the multi-plane coverage of the anatomy by simultaneously acquired slices to enable robust reconstruction of neural microstructure from SMS DWI of moving subjects. Our technique constitutes three main components: 1) motion tracking and estimation using SMS registration, 2) detection and rejection of intra-slice motion, and 3) robust reconstruction. Quantitative results from 14 volunteer subject experiments and the analysis of motion-corrupted SMS DWI of 6 children indicate robust reconstruction in the presence of continuous motion and the potential to extend the use of SMS DWI in very challenging populations.
In magnetic resonance (MR), hardware limitation, scanning time, and patient comfort often result in the acquisition of anisotropic 3-D MR images. Enhancing image resolution is desired but has been very challenging in medical image processing. Super resolution reconstruction based on sparse representation and overcomplete dictionary has been lately employed to address this problem; however, these methods require extra training sets, which may not be always available. This paper proposes a novel single anisotropic 3-D MR image upsampling method via sparse representation and overcomplete dictionary that is trained from in-plane high resolution slices to upsample in the out-of-plane dimensions. The proposed method, therefore, does not require extra training sets. Abundant experiments, conducted on simulated and clinical brain MR images, show that the proposed method is more accurate than classical interpolation. When compared to a recent upsampling method based on the nonlocal means approach, the proposed method did not show improved results at low upsampling factors with simulated images, but generated comparable results with much better computational efficiency in clinical cases. Therefore, the proposed approach can be efficiently implemented and routinely used to upsample MR images in the out-of-planes views for radiologic assessment and postacquisition processing.
Acquisition of a series of anisotropically oversampled acquisitions (so-called anisotropic "snapshots") and reconstruction in the image space has recently been proposed to increase the spatial resolution in diffusion weighted imaging (DWI), providing a theoretical 8x acceleration at equal signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) compared to conventional dense k-space sampling. However, in most works, each DW image is reconstructed separately and the fact that the DW images constitute different views of the same anatomy is ignored. In addition, current approaches are limited by their inability to reconstruct a high resolution (HR) acquisition from snapshots with different subsets of diffusion gradients: an isotropic HR gradient image cannot be reconstructed if one .of its anisotropic snapshots is missing, for example due to intra-scan motion, even if other snapshots for this gradient were successfully acquired. In this work, we propose a novel multi-snapshot DWI reconstruction technique that simultaneously achieves HR reconstruction and local tissue model estimation while enabling reconstruction from snapshots containing different subsets of diffusion gradients, providing increased robustness to patient motion and potential for acceleration. Our approach is formalized as a joint probabilistic model with missing observations, from which interactions between missing snapshots, HR reconstruction and a generic tissue model naturally emerge. We evaluate our approach with synthetic simulations, simulated multi-snapshot scenario and in vivo multi-snapshot imaging. We show that (1) our combined approach ultimately provides both better HR reconstruction and better tissue model estimation and (2) the error in the case of missing snapshots can be quantified. Our novel multi-snapshot technique will enable improved high spatial characterization of the brain connectivity and microstructure in vivo.
PURPOSE: To compare and evaluate the use of super-resolution reconstruction (SRR), in frequency, image, and wavelet domains, to reduce through-plane partial voluming effects in magnetic resonance imaging.
METHODS: The reconstruction of an isotropic high-resolution image from multiple thick-slice scans has been investigated through techniques in frequency, image, and wavelet domains. Experiments were carried out with thick-slice T2-weighted fast spin echo sequence on the Academic College of Radiology MRI phantom, where the reconstructed images were compared to a reference high-resolution scan using peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR), structural similarity image metric (SSIM), mutual information (MI), and the mean absolute error (MAE) of image intensity profiles. The application of super-resolution reconstruction was then examined in retrospective processing of clinical neuroimages of ten pediatric patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) to reduce through-plane partial voluming for improved 3D delineation and visualization of thin radial bands of white matter abnormalities.
RESULTS: Quantitative evaluation results show improvements in all evaluation metrics through super-resolution reconstruction in the frequency, image, and wavelet domains, with the highest values obtained from SRR in the image domain. The metric values for image-domain SRR versus the original axial, coronal, and sagittal images were PSNR = 32.26 vs 32.22, 32.16, 30.65; SSIM = 0.931 vs 0.922, 0.924, 0.918; MI = 0.871 vs 0.842, 0.844, 0.831; and MAE = 5.38 vs 7.34, 7.06, 6.19. All similarity metrics showed high correlations with expert ranking of image resolution with MI showing the highest correlation at 0.943. Qualitative assessment of the neuroimages of ten TSC patients through in-plane and out-of-plane visualization of structures showed the extent of partial voluming effect in a real clinical scenario and its reduction using SRR. Blinded expert evaluation of image resolution in resampled out-of-plane views consistently showed the superiority of SRR compared to original axial and coronal image acquisitions.
CONCLUSIONS: Thick-slice 2D T2-weighted MRI scans are part of many routine clinical protocols due to their high signal-to-noise ratio, but are often severely affected by through-plane partial voluming effects. This study shows that while radiologic assessment is performed in 2D on thick-slice scans, super-resolution MRI reconstruction techniques can be used to fuse those scans to generate a high-resolution image with reduced partial voluming for improved postacquisition processing. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation showed the efficacy of all SRR techniques with the best results obtained from SRR in the image domain. The limitations of SRR techniques are uncertainties in modeling the slice profile, density compensation, quantization in resampling, and uncompensated motion between scans.
Writing a compelling grant application is a skill that is crucial to conducting high-quality and high-impact scientific research. A successful grant proposal provides the resources necessary to foster activity in an important area of investigation. A concise and practical overview of the anatomy and art of grant writing is provided in this article, along with citations to resources that are particularly useful for junior investigators.
The development and identification of best methods in fetal brain MRI analysis is crucial as we expect an outburst of studies on groupwise and longitudinal analysis of early brain development in the upcoming years. To address this critical need, in this paper, we have developed a mathematical framework for the construction of an unbiased deformable spatiotemporal atlas of the fetal brain MRI and compared it to alternative configurations in terms of similarity metrics and deformation models. Our contributions are twofold: first we suggest a novel approach to fetal brain spatiotemporal atlas construction that shows high capability in capturing anatomic variation between subjects; and second, within our atlas construction framework we evaluate and compare a set of plausible configurations for inter-subject fetal brain MRI registration and identify the most accurate approach that can potentially lead to most accurate results in population atlas construction, atlas-based segmentation, and group analysis. Our evaluation results indicate that symmetric diffeomorphic deformable registration with cross correlation similarity metric outperforms other configurations in this application and results in sharp unbiased atlases that can be used in fetal brain MRI analysis.
Ali Gholipour, Judith A Estroff, Carol E Barnewolt, Richard L Robertson, Ellen P Grant, Borjan Gagoski, Simon K Warfield, Onur Afacan, Susan A Connolly, Jeffrey J Neil, Adam Wolfberg, and Robert V Mulkern. 2014. “Fetal MRI: A Technical Update with Educational Aspirations.” Concepts Magn Reson Part A Bridg Educ Res, 43, 6, Pp. 237-266.Abstract
Fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations have become well-established procedures at many institutions and can serve as useful adjuncts to ultrasound (US) exams when diagnostic doubts remain after US. Due to fetal motion, however, fetal MRI exams are challenging and require the MR scanner to be used in a somewhat different mode than that employed for more routine clinical studies. Herein we review the techniques most commonly used, and those that are available, for fetal MRI with an emphasis on the physics of the techniques and how to deploy them to improve success rates for fetal MRI exams. By far the most common technique employed is single-shot T2-weighted imaging due to its excellent tissue contrast and relative immunity to fetal motion. Despite the significant challenges involved, however, many of the other techniques commonly employed in conventional neuro- and body MRI such as T1 and T2*-weighted imaging, diffusion and perfusion weighted imaging, as well as spectroscopic methods remain of interest for fetal MR applications. An effort to understand the strengths and limitations of these basic methods within the context of fetal MRI is made in order to optimize their use and facilitate implementation of technical improvements for the further development of fetal MR imaging, both in acquisition and post-processing strategies.
Precise labeling of subcortical structures plays a key role in functional neurosurgical applications. Labels from an atlas image are propagated to a patient image using atlas-based segmentation. Atlas-based segmentation is highly dependent on the registration framework used to guide the atlas label propagation. This paper focuses on atlas-based segmentation of subcortical brain structures and the effect of different registration methods on the generated subcortical labels. A single-step and three two-step registration methods appearing in the literature based on affine and deformable registration algorithms in the ANTS and FSL algorithms are considered. Experiments are carried out with two atlas databases of IBSR and LPBA40. Six segmentation metrics consisting of Dice overlap, relative volume error, false positive, false negative, surface distance, and spatial extent are used for evaluation. Segmentation results are reported individually and as averages for nine subcortical brain structures. Based on two statistical tests, the results are ranked. In general, among four different registration strategies investigated in this paper, a two-step registration consisting of an initial affine registration followed by a deformable registration applied to subcortical structures provides superior segmentation outcomes. This method can be used to provide an improved labeling of the subcortical brain structures in MRIs for different applications.
The recent development of motion robust super-resolution fetal brain MRI holds out the potential for dramatic new advances in volumetric and morphometric analysis. Volumetric analysis based on volumetric and morphometric biomarkers of the developing fetal brain must include segmentation. Automatic segmentation of fetal brain MRI is challenging, however, due to the highly variable size and shape of the developing brain; possible structural abnormalities; and the relatively poor resolution of fetal MRI scans. To overcome these limitations, we present a novel, constrained, multi-atlas, multi-shape automatic segmentation method that specifically addresses the challenge of segmenting multiple structures with similar intensity values in subjects with strong anatomic variability. Accordingly, we have applied this method to shape segmentation of normal, dilated, or fused lateral ventricles for quantitative analysis of ventriculomegaly (VM), which is a pivotal finding in the earliest stages of fetal brain development, and warrants further investigation. Utilizing these innovative techniques, we introduce novel volumetric and morphometric biomarkers of VM comparing these values to those that are generated by standard methods of VM analysis, i.e., by measuring the ventricular atrial diameter (AD) on manually selected sections of 2D ultrasound or 2D MRI. To this end, we studied 25 normal and abnormal fetuses in the gestation age (GA) range of 19 to 39 weeks (mean=28.26, stdev=6.56). This heterogeneous dataset was essentially used to 1) validate our segmentation method for normal and abnormal ventricles; and 2) show that the proposed biomarkers may provide improved detection of VM as compared to the AD measurement.
Normal brain development is associated with expansion and folding of the cerebral cortex following a highly orchestrated sequence of gyral-sulcal formation. Although several studies have described the evolution of cerebral cortical development ex vivo or ex utero, to date, very few studies have characterized and quantified the gyrification process for the in vivo fetal brain. Recent advances in fetal magnetic resonance imaging and post-processing computational methods are providing new insights into fetal brain maturation in vivo. In this study, we investigate the in vivo fetal cortical folding pattern in healthy fetuses between 25 and 35 weeks gestational age using 3-D reconstructed fetal cortical surfaces. We describe the in vivo fetal gyrification process using a robust feature extraction algorithm applied directly on the cortical surface, providing an explicit delineation of the sulcal pattern during fetal brain development. We also delineate cortical surface measures, including surface area and gyrification index. Our data support an exuberant third trimester gyrification process and suggest a non-linear evolution of sulcal development. The availability of normative indices of cerebral cortical developing in the living fetus may provide critical insights on the timing and progression of impaired cerebral development in the high-risk fetus.
Increasing the spatial resolution in diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is challenging with a single-shot EPI acquisition because of the decreased SNR and T2* relaxation. Recently, acquisition of orthogonal anisotropic acquisitions and super-resolution reconstruction (SRR) of the underlying high-resolution image has been proposed to achieve higher resolution. Promising results have been shown with simulations. However, practical evidence that SRR enables resolution enhancement remains unclear. Particularly, real DWI scans acquired in orthogonal directions are subject to very different distortion. This makes the precise alignment of the images impossible and strongly perturbs the reconstruction. In this work we propose to combine distortion compensation and SRR. Distortion compensation is achieved by acquisition of a dual echo field map, providing an estimate of the field inhomogeneity. The SRR is formulated as a maximum a posteriori problem and relies on a realistic image generation model. We evaluate our approach with real anisotropic acquisitions. Importantly, we demonstrate that combining distortion compensation and SRR provides better results than acquisition of a single isotropic scan for the same acquisition duration time. The SRR provides more detailed structures and better tractography results. This work provides the first evidence that SRR, which employs conventional SS-EPI techniques, may enable resolution enhancement in DWI, and may dramatically impact the way to achieve DW imaging in both neuroscience and clinical applications.
Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) enables non-invasive investigation and characterization of the white matter but suffers from a relatively poor spatial resolution. Increasing the spatial resolution in DWI is challenging with a single-shot EPI acquisition due to the decreased signal-to-noise ratio and T2(∗) relaxation effect amplified with increased echo time. In this work we propose a super-resolution reconstruction (SRR) technique based on the acquisition of multiple anisotropic orthogonal DWI scans. DWI scans acquired in different planes are not typically closely aligned due to the geometric distortion introduced by magnetic susceptibility differences in each phase-encoding direction. We compensate each scan for geometric distortion by acquisition of a dual echo gradient echo field map, providing an estimate of the field inhomogeneity. We address the problem of patient motion by aligning the volumes in both space and q-space. The SRR is formulated as a maximum a posteriori problem. It relies on a volume acquisition model which describes how the acquired scans are observations of an unknown high-resolution image which we aim to recover. Our model enables the introduction of image priors that exploit spatial homogeneity and enables regularized solutions. We detail our SRR optimization procedure and report experiments including numerical simulations, synthetic SRR and real world SRR. In particular, we demonstrate that combining distortion compensation and SRR provides better results than acquisition of a single isotropic scan for the same acquisition duration time. Importantly, SRR enables DWI with resolution beyond the scanner hardware limitations. This work provides the first evidence that SRR, which employs conventional single shot EPI techniques, enables resolution enhancement in DWI, and may dramatically impact the role of DWI in both neuroscience and clinical applications.
Rapid and efficient imaging of the brain to monitor brain activity and neural connectivity is performed through functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) using the Echo-planar imaging (EPI) sequence. An entire volume of the brain is imaged by EPI in a few seconds through the measurement of all k-space lines within one repetition time. However, this makes the sequence extremely sensitive to imperfections of magnetic field. In particular, the error caused by susceptibility induced magnetic field inhomogeneity accumulates over the duration of phase encoding, which in turn results in severe geometric distortion (warping) in EPI scans. EPI distortion correction through unwarping can be performed by field map based or image based techniques. However, due to the lack of ground truth it has been difficult to compare and validate different approaches. In this paper we propose a hybrid field map guided constrained deformable registration approach and compare it to field map based and image based unwarping approaches through a novel in-vivo validation framework which is based on the acquisition and alignment of EPI scans with different phase encoding directions. The quantitative evaluation results show that our hybrid approach of field map guided deformable registration to an undistorted T2-weighted image outperforms the other approaches.
PURPOSE: Fetal MRI volumetry is a useful technique but it is limited by a dependency upon motion-free scans, tedious manual segmentation, and spatial inaccuracy due to thick-slice scans. An image processing pipeline that addresses these limitations was developed and tested.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The principal sequences acquired in fetal MRI clinical practice are multiple orthogonal single-shot fast spin echo scans. State-of-the-art image processing techniques were used for inter-slice motion correction and super-resolution reconstruction of high-resolution volumetric images from these scans. The reconstructed volume images were processed with intensity non-uniformity correction and the fetal brain extracted by using supervised automated segmentation.
RESULTS: Reconstruction, segmentation and volumetry of the fetal brains for a cohort of twenty-five clinically acquired fetal MRI scans was done. Performance metrics for volume reconstruction, segmentation and volumetry were determined by comparing to manual tracings in five randomly chosen cases. Finally, analysis of the fetal brain and parenchymal volumes was performed based on the gestational age of the fetuses.
CONCLUSION: The image processing pipeline developed in this study enables volume rendering and accurate fetal brain volumetry by addressing the limitations of current volumetry techniques, which include dependency on motion-free scans, manual segmentation, and inaccurate thick-slice interpolation.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is highly sensitive to motion; hence current practice is based on the prevention of motion during scan. In newborns, young children, and patients with limited cooperation, this commonly requires full sedation or general anesthesia, which is time consuming, costly, and is associated with significant risks. Despite progress in prospective motion correction in MRI, the use of motion compensation techniques is limited by the type and amount of motion that can be compensated for, the dependency on the scanner platform, the need for pulse sequence modifications, and/or difficult setup. In this paper we introduce a novel platform-independent motion-robust MRI technique based on prospective real-time motion tracking through a miniature magnetic field sensor and retrospective super-resolution volume reconstruction. The technique is based on fast 2D scans that maintain high-quality of slices in the presence of motion but are degraded in 3D due to inter-slice motion artifacts. The sensor, conveniently attached to the subject forehead, provides real-time estimation of the motion, which in turn gives the relative location of the slice acquisitions. These location parameters are used to compensate the inter-slice motion to reconstruct an isotropic high-resolution volumetric image from slices in a super-resolution reconstruction framework. The quantitative results obtained for phantom and volunteer subject experiments in this study show the efficacy of the developed technique, which is particularly useful for motion-robust high-resolution T2-weighted imaging of newborns and pediatric subjects.
Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) enables non-invasive investigation and characterization of the white-matter but suffers from a relatively poor resolution. In this work we propose a super-resolution reconstruction (SRR) technique based on the acquisition of multiple anisotropic orthogonal DWI scans. We address the problem of patient motions by aligning the volumes both in space and in q-space. The SRR is formulated as a maximum a posteriori (MAP) problem. It relies on a volume acquisition model which describes the generation of the acquired scans from the unknown high-resolution image. It enables the introduction of image priors that exploit spatial homogeneity and enables regularized solutions. We detail our resulting SRR optimization procedure and report various experiments including numerical simulations, synthetic SRR scenario and real world SRR scenario. Super-resolution reconstruction in DWI may enable DWI to be performed with unprecedented resolution.
Thick-slice image acquisitions are sometimes inevitable in magnetic resonance imaging due to limitations posed by pulse sequence timing and signal-to-noise-ratio. The estimation of an isotropic high-resolution volume from thick-slice MRI scans is desired for improved image analysis and evaluation. In this article we formulate a maximum a posteriori (MAP) estimation algorithm for high-resolution volumetric MRI reconstruction. As compared to the previous techniques, this probabilistic formulation relies on a slice acquisition model and allows the incorporation of image priors. We focus on image priors based on image gradients and compare the developed MAP estimation approach to scattered data interpolation (SDI) and maximum likelihood reconstruction. The results indicate that the developed MAP estimation approach outperforms the SDI techniques and appropriate image priors may improve the volume estimation when the acquired thick-slice scans do not sufficiently sample the imaged volume. We also report applications in pediatric and fetal imaging.