Purpose: We describe an image fusion application that addresses two basic problems that previously limited the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for geometric localization in stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT). The first limitation is imposed by the use of a relocatable, MRI-incompatible, stereotactic frame for stereotactic radiotherapy. The second limitation is an inherent lack of geometric fidelity in current MRI scanners that invalidates the use of MRI for stereotactic localization.
Methods and materials: We recently developed and implemented a novel automated method for fusing computerized tomography (CT) and MRI volumetric image studies. The method is based on a chamfer matching algorithm, and provides a quality assurance procedure to verify the accuracy of the fused image set. The image fusion protocol removes the need for stereotactic fixation of the patient for the MRI study.
Results: The image fusion protocol significantly improves on the spatial accuracy of the MRI study. We demonstrate the effect of distortion and the effectiveness of the fusion with a phantom study. We present two case studies, an acoustic neurinoma treated with SRS, and a pilocytic astrocytoma treated with SRT.
Conclusion: The image fusion protocol significantly improves our logistical management of treating patients with radiosurgery and makes conformal therapy practical for treating patients with SRT. The image fusion protocol demonstrates both the superior diagnostic quality and the poor geometric fidelity of MRI. MRI is a required imaging modality in stereotactic therapy. Image fusion combines the superior MRI diagnostic quality with the superior CT geometric definition, and makes the use of MRI in stereotactic therapy possible and practical.