Comparison and evaluation of distortion correction techniques on an MR-guided radiotherapy system

Med Phys. 2021 Feb;48(2):691-702. doi: 10.1002/mp.14634. Epub 2020 Dec 23.


Purpose: To evaluate two distortion correction techniques for diffusion-weighted single-shot echo-planar imaging (DW-ssEPI) on a 0.35 T magnetic resonance-guided radiotherapy (MRgRT) system.

Methods: The effects of sequence optimization through enabling parallel imaging (PI) and selecting appropriate bandwidth on spatial distortion were first evaluated on the 0.35 T MRgRT system using a spatial integrity phantom. Field map (FM) and reversed gradient (RG) corrections were then performed on the optimized protocol to further reduce distortion. An open-source toolbox was used to quantify the spatial displacement before and after distortion correction. To evaluate ADC accuracy and repeatability of the optimized protocol, as well as impacts of distortion correction on ADC values, the optimized protocol was scanned twice on a diffusion phantom. The calculated ADC values were compared with reference ADCs using paired t-test. Intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) between the two repetitions, as well as between before and after FM/RG correction was calculated to evaluate ADC repeatability and effects of distortion correction. Six patients were recruited to assess the in-vivo performance. The optimal distortion correction technique was identified by visual assessment. To quantify distortion reduction, tumor and critical structures were contoured on the turbo spin echo (TSE) image (reference image), the DW-ssEPI image, and the distortion corrected images independently by two radiation oncologists. Mean distance to agreement (MDA) and DICE coefficient between contours on the reference images and the diffusion images were calculated. Tumor apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values from the original DW-ssEPI images and the distortion corrected images were compared using Bland-Altman analysis.

Results: Sequence optimization played a vital role in improving the spatial integrity, and spatial distortion was proportional to the total readout time. Before the correction, distortion of the optimized protocol (PI and high bandwidth) was 1.50 ± 0.89 mm in a 100 mm radius and 2.21 ± 1.39 mm in a 175 mm radius for the central plane. FM corrections reduced the distortions to 0.42 ± 0.27 mm and 0.67 ± 0.49 mm respectively, and RG reduced distortion to 0.40 ± 0.22 mm and 0.64 ± 0.47 mm, respectively. The optimized protocol provided accurate and repeatable ADC quantification on the diffusion phantom. The calculated ADC values were consistent before and after FM/RG correction. For the patient study, the FM correction was unable to reduce chemical shift artifacts whereas the RG method successfully mitigated the chemical shift. MDA reduced from 2.52 ± 1.29 mm to 1.11 ± 0.72 mm after the RG correction. The DICE coefficient increased from 0.80 ± 0.13 to 0.91 ± 0.06. A Bland-Altman plot showed that there was a good agreement between ADC measurements before and after application of the RG correction.

Conclusion: Two distortion correction techniques were evaluated on a commercial low-field MRgRT system. Overall, the RG correction was able to drastically improve spatial distortion and preserve ADC accuracy.

Keywords: diffusion-weighted MRI; distortion correction; low-field MRgRT.

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