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An investigation was carried out into the effect of three image registration techniques on the diagnostic image quality of contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography (CE-MRA) images.
Methods Whole-body CE-MRA data from the lower legs of 27 patients recruited onto a study of asymptomatic atherosclerosis were processed using three deformable image registration algorithms. The resultant diagnostic image quality was evaluated qualitatively in a clinical evaluation by four expert observers, and quantitatively by measuring contrast-to-noise ratios and volumes of blood vessels, and assessing the techniques’ ability to correct for varying degrees of motion.
Results The first registration algorithm (‘AIR’) introduced significant stenosis-mimicking artefacts into the blood vessels’ appearance, observed both qualitatively (clinical evaluation) and quantitatively (vessel volume measurements). The other two algorithms (‘Slicer’ and ‘SEMI’) based on the normalised mutual information (NMI) concept and designed specifically to deal with variations in signal intensity as found in contrast-enhanced image data, did not suffer from this serious issue but were rather found to significantly improve the diagnostic image quality both qualitatively and quantitatively, and demonstrated a significantly improved ability to deal with the common problem of patient motion.
Conclusions This work highlights both the significant benefits to be gained through the use of suitable registration algorithms and the deleterious effects of an inappropriate choice of algorithm for contrast-enhanced MRI data. The maximum benefit was found in the lower legs, where the small arterial vessel diameters and propensity for leg movement during image acquisitions posed considerable problems in making accurate diagnoses from the un-registered images.
Foley, D. et al. (2014) The utility of deformable image registration for small artery visualisation in contrast-enhanced whole body MR angiography. Physica Medica: European Journal of Medical Physics (2014), Dec;30(8):898-908. doi:10.1016/j.ejmp.2014.08.001