Objective: Four methods of producing maximum intensity projection (MIP) images were studied and compared.
Materials and methods: Three of the projection methods differ in the interpolation kernel used for ray tracing. The interpolation kernels include nearest neighbor interpolation, linear interpolation, and cubic convolution interpolation. The fourth projection method is a voxel projection method that is not explicitly a ray-tracing technique. The four algorithms' performance was evaluated using a computer-generated model of a vessel and using real MR angiography data. The evaluation centered around how well an algorithm transferred an object's width to the projection plane.
Results: The voxel projection algorithm does not suffer from artifacts associated with the nearest neighbor algorithm. Also, a speed-up in the calculation of the projection is seen with the voxel projection method. Linear interpolation dramatically improves the transfer of width information from the 3D MRA data set over both nearest neighbor and voxel projection methods. Even though the cubic convolution interpolation kernel is theoretically superior to the linear kernel, it did not project widths more accurately than linear interpolation. A possible advantage to the nearest neighbor interpolation is that the size of small vessels tends to be exaggerated in the projection plane, thereby increasing their visibility.
Conclusion: The results confirm that the way in which an MIP image is constructed has a dramatic effect on information contained in the projection. The construction method must be chosen with the knowledge that the clinical information in the 2D projections in general will be different from that contained in the original 3D data volume.