Quantification of local geometric distortion in structural magnetic resonance images: Application to ultra-high fields
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© 2017 Elsevier Inc. Ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides superior visualization of brain structures compared to lower fields, but images may be prone to severe geometric inhomogeneity. We propose to quantify local geometric distortion at ultra-high fields in in vivo datasets of human subjects scanned at both ultra-high field and lower fields. By using the displacement field derived from nonlinear image registration between images of the same subject, focal areas of spatial uncertainty are quantified. Through group and subject-specific analysis, we were able to identify regions systematically affected by geometric distortion at air-tissue interfaces prone to magnetic susceptibility, where the gradient coil non-linearity occurs in the occipital and suboccipital regions, as well as with distance from image isocenter. The derived displacement maps, quantified in millimeters, can be used to prospectively evaluate subject-specific local spatial uncertainty that should be taken into account in neuroimaging studies, and also for clinical applications like stereotactic neurosurgery where accuracy is critical. Validation with manual fiducial displacement demonstrated excellent correlation and agreement. Our results point to the need for site-specific calibration of geometric inhomogeneity. Our methodology provides a framework to permit prospective evaluation of the effect of MRI sequences, distortion correction techniques, and scanner hardware/software upgrades on geometric distortion.