Free Breathing Diffusion Tensor Imaging and Tractography
Free-breathing cardiac diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a promising but challenging technique for the study of fiber structures of the human heart in vivo. This work proposes a clinically compatible and robust technique to provide three-dimensional (3-D) fiber architecture properties of the human heart. To this end, 10 short-axis slices were acquired across the entire heart using a multiple shifted trigger delay (TD) strategy under free breathing conditions. Interscan motion was first corrected automatically using a nonrigid registration method. Then, two post-processing schemes were optimized and compared: an algorithm based on principal component analysis (PCA) filtering and temporal maximum intensity projection (TMIP), and an algorithm that uses the wavelet-basedimage fusion (WIF) method. The two methods were applied to the registered diffusion-weighted (DW) images to cope with intrascan motion-induced signal loss.
The tensor fields were finally calculated, from which fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), and 3-D fiber tracts were derived and compared. The results show that the comparison of the FA values (FAPCATMIP = 0.45 ±0.10, FAWIF = 0.42 ±0.05, P=0.06) showed no significant difference, while the MD values ( MDPCATMIP=0.83 ±0.12×10-3 mm2/s, MDWIF=0.74±0.05×10-3 mm2/s, P=0.028) were significantly different. Improved helix angle variations through the myocardium wall reflecting the rotation characteristic of cardiac fibers were observed with WIF. This study demonstrates that the combination of multiple shifted TD acquisitions and dedicated post-processing makes it feasible to retrieve in vivo cardiac tractographies from free-breathing DTI acquisitions. The substantial improvements were observed using the WIF method instead of the previously published PCATMIP technique.
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