Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of accelerated diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of skeletal muscle using echo planar imaging (EPI) applying simultaneous multislice excitation with a blipped controlled aliasing in parallel imaging results in higher acceleration unaliasing technique.
Materials and methods: After federal ethics board approval, the lower leg muscles of 8 healthy volunteers (mean [SD] age, 29.4 [2.9] years) were examined in a clinical 3-T magnetic resonance scanner using a 15-channel knee coil. The EPI was performed at a b value of 500 s/mm2 without slice acceleration (conventional DTI) as well as with 2-fold and 3-fold acceleration. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) were measured in all 3 acquisitions. Fiber tracking performance was compared between the acquisitions regarding the number of tracks, average track length, and anatomical precision using multivariate analysis of variance and Mann-Whitney U tests.
Results: Acquisition time was 7:24 minutes for conventional DTI, 3:53 minutes for 2-fold acceleration, and 2:38 minutes for 3-fold acceleration. Overall FA and MD values ranged from 0.220 to 0.378 and 1.595 to 1.829 mm2/s, respectively. Two-fold acceleration yielded similar FA and MD values (P ≥ 0.901) and similar fiber tracking performance compared with conventional DTI. Three-fold acceleration resulted in comparable MD (P = 0.199) but higher FA values (P = 0.006) and significantly impaired fiber tracking in the soleus and tibialis anterior muscles (number of tracks, P < 0.001; anatomical precision, P ≤ 0.005).
Conclusions: Simultaneous multislice EPI with blipped controlled aliasing in parallel imaging results in higher acceleration can remarkably reduce acquisition time in DTI of skeletal muscle with similar image quality and quantification accuracy of diffusion parameters. This may increase the clinical applicability of muscle anisotropy measurements.