Prospective evaluation of in vivo and phantom repeatability and reproducibility of diffusion-weighted MRI sequences on 1.5 T MRI-linear accelerator (MR-Linac) and MR simulator devices for head and neck cancers

Radiother Oncol. 2023 Aug:185:109717. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2023.109717. Epub 2023 May 19.


Introduction: Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) on MRI-linear accelerator (MR-linac) systems can potentially be used for monitoring treatment response and adaptive radiotherapy in head and neck cancers (HNC) but requires extensive validation. We performed technical validation to compare six total DWI sequences on an MR-linac and MR simulator (MR sim) in patients, volunteers, and phantoms.

Methods: Ten human papillomavirus-positive oropharyngeal cancer patients and ten healthy volunteers underwent DWI on a 1.5 T MR-linac with three DWI sequences: echo planar imaging (EPI), split acquisition of fast spin echo signals (SPLICE), and turbo spin echo (TSE). Volunteers were also imaged on a 1.5 T MR sim with three sequences: EPI, BLADE (vendor tradename), and readout segmentation of long variable echo trains (RESOLVE). Participants underwent two scan sessions per device and two repeats of each sequence per session. Repeatability and reproducibility within-subject coefficient of variation (wCV) of mean ADC were calculated for tumors and lymph nodes (patients) and parotid glands (volunteers). ADC bias, repeatability/reproducibility metrics, SNR, and geometric distortion were quantified using a phantom.

Results: In vivo repeatability/reproducibility wCV for parotids were 5.41%/6.72%, 3.83%/8.80%, 5.66%/10.03%, 3.44%/5.70%, 5.04%/5.66%, 4.23%/7.36% for EPIMR-linac, SPLICE, TSE, EPIMR sim, BLADE, RESOLVE. Repeatability/reproducibility wCV for EPIMR-linac, SPLICE, TSE were 9.64%/10.28%, 7.84%/8.96%, 7.60%/11.68% for tumors and 7.80%/9.95%, 7.23%/8.48%, 10.82%/10.44% for nodes. All sequences except TSE had phantom ADC biases within ± 0.1x10-3 mm2/s for most vials (EPIMR-linac, SPLICE, and BLADE had 2, 3, and 1 vials out of 13 with larger biases, respectively). SNR of b = 0 images was 87.3, 180.5, 161.3, 171.0, 171.9, 130.2 for EPIMR-linac, SPLICE, TSE, EPIMR sim, BLADE, RESOLVE.

Conclusion: MR-linac DWI sequences demonstrated near-comparable performance to MR sim sequences and warrant further clinical validation for treatment response assessment in HNC.

Keywords: Apparent diffusion coefficient; Diffusion-weighted Imaging; MR-Linac; MR-guided radiation therapy; Magnetic resonance imaging; Repeatability and reproducibility; Test-retest.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Echo-Planar Imaging / methods
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Reproducibility of Results