Susceptibility-weighted imaging using inter-echo-variance channel combination for improved contrast at 7 tesla
Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
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Purpose: To implement and optimize a new approach for susceptibility-weighted image (SWI) generation from multi-echo multi-channel image data and compare its performance against optimized traditional SWI pipelines. Materials and Methods: Five healthy volunteers were imaged at 7 Tesla. The inter-echo-variance (IEV) channel combination, which uses the variance of the local frequency shift at multiple echo times as a weighting factor during channel combination, was used to calculate multi-echo local phase shift maps. Linear phase masks were combined with the magnitude to generate IEV-SWI. The performance of the IEV-SWI pipeline was compared with that of two accepted SWI pipelines–channel combination followed by (i) Homodyne filtering (HPH-SWI) and (ii) unwrapping and high-pass filtering (SVD-SWI). The filtering steps of each pipeline were optimized. Contrast-to-noise ratio was used as the comparison metric. Qualitative assessment of artifact and vessel conspicuity was performed and processing time of pipelines was evaluated. Results: The optimized IEV-SWI pipeline (σ = 7 mm) resulted in continuous vessel visibility throughout the brain. IEV-SWI had significantly higher contrast compared with HPH-SWI and SVD-SWI (P < 0.001, Friedman nonparametric test). Residual background fields and phase wraps in HPH-SWI and SVD-SWI corrupted the vessel signal and/or generated vessel-mimicking artifact. Optimized implementation of the IEV-SWI pipeline processed a six-echo 16-channel dataset in under 10 min. Conclusion: IEV-SWI benefits from channel-by-channel processing of phase data and results in high contrast images with an optimal balance between contrast and background noise removal, thereby presenting evidence of importance of the order in which postprocessing techniques are applied for multi-channel SWI generation. Level of Evidence: 2. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2017;45:1113–1124.