Replicability of diffusion tensor imaging measurements of fractional anisotropy and trace in brain

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2003 Oct;18(4):427-33. doi: 10.1002/jmri.10377.


Purpose: To evaluate within-scanner and between-scanner reliability of fractional anisotropy (FA) and trace (sum of the diagonal elements of the diffusion tensor) as measured by diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).

Materials and methods: Ten young healthy adults were scanned on three separate days, on two different systems made by the same manufacturer. One scan was acquired at one site, and two scans were acquired on two different occasions on another scanner at another site. Three levels of analysis were used to compare the DTI metrics: 1) a voxel-by-voxel analysis of all supratentorial brain (gray matter + white matter + cerebrospinal fluid) and of supratentorial white matter; 2) a slice-by-slice analysis of supratentorial white matter; and 3) a single-region analysis of the corpus callosum.

Results: The voxel-by-voxel analysis of all supratentorial brain found that FA and trace measures and correlations were equivalently and significantly higher within than across scanners. For supratentorial white matter, FA was similar within and across scanners, whereas trace demonstrated across-scanner bias. A similar pattern was observed for the slice-by-slice comparison. For the single-region analysis of the corpus callosum, within-scanner FA and trace measures were highly reproducible for FA (CV = 1.9%) and trace (CV = 2.6%), but both DTI measures showed a systematic mean bias across scanners (CV = 4.5% for FA and CV = 7.5% for trace).

Conclusion: These estimates of measurement variation and scanner bias can be used to predict effect sizes for longitudinal and multisite studies using diffusion tensor imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Corpus Callosum / anatomy & histology
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results