Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of a free-breathing dynamic liver imaging technique using a prototype Cartesian T1-weighted volumetric interpolated breathhold examination (VIBE) sequence with compressed sensing and simultaneous acquisition of a navigation signal for hard-gated and motion state-resolved reconstruction.
Materials and methods: A total of 43 consecutive oncologic patients (mean age, 66 ± 11 years; 44% female) underwent free-breathing dynamic liver imaging for the evaluation of liver metastases from colorectal cancer using a prototype Cartesian VIBE sequence (field of view, 380 × 345 mm; image matrix, 320 × 218; echo time/repetition time, 1.8/3.76 milliseconds; flip angle, 10 degrees; slice thickness, 3.0 mm; acquisition time, 188 seconds) with continuous data sampling and additionally acquired self-navigation signal. Data were iteratively reconstructed using 2 different approaches: first, a hard-gated reconstruction only using data associated to the dominating motion state (CS VIBE, Compressed Sensing VIBE), and second, a motion-resolved reconstruction with 6 different motion states as additional image dimension (XD VIBE, eXtended dimension VIBE). Continuous acquired data were grouped in 16 subsequent time increments with 11.57 seconds each to resolve arterial and venous contrast phases. For image quality assessment, both CS VIBE and XD VIBE were compared with the patient's last staging dynamic liver magnetic resonance imaging including a breathhold (BH) VIBE as reference standard 4.5 ± 1.2 months before. Representative quality parameters including respiratory artifacts were evaluated for arterial and venous phase images independently, retrospectively and blindly by 3 experienced radiologists, with higher scores indicating better examination quality. To assess diagnostic accuracy, same readers evaluated the presence of metastatic lesions for XD VIBE and CS VIBE compared with reference BH examination in a second session.
Results: Compared with CS VIBE, XD VIBE showed significantly higher overall image quality for both arterial phase (4.2 ± 0.6 vs 3.8 ± 0.7, P = 0.008) and venous phase (4.7 ± 0.4 vs 4.3 ± 0.7, P < 0.001) imaging. There was no significant difference between XD VIBE and BH VIBE for overall image quality in the venous phase (4.7 ± 0.4 vs 4.8 ± 0.4, P = 0.834), whereas arterial phase images were scored slightly lower for XD VIBE (4.5 ± 0.6 vs 4.2 ± 0.6, P = 0.024). Both XD VIBE and BH VIBE were characterized by a very low level of respiratory artifacts with no significant difference between BH and motion-resolved free-breathing strategy (P = 0.505 for arterial phase; P = 0.496 for venous phase). Compared with CS VIBE, obvious quality improvement could be achieved for the extended XD VIBE reconstruction with significantly reduced motion artifacts for venous phase images (P = 0.007). Generally, arterial phase images were scored slightly lower compared with venous phase images when using the free-breathing protocol. Overall, 98% of all metastatic lesions were identified on XD VIBE images and 92% of all metastases were found on CS VIBE.
Conclusions: Dynamic liver imaging using the proposed free-breathing Cartesian strategy is feasible in oncologic patients with excellent image quality, high respiratory motion robustness, and accurate lesion detection. Overall, XD VIBE was superior to CS VIBE in our study.