Generation of brain pseudo-CTs using an undersampled, single-acquisition UTE-mDixon pulse sequence and unsupervised clustering

Authors


Abstract

Purpose:

MR-based pseudo-CT has an important role in MR-based radiation therapy planning and PET attenuation correction. The purpose of this study is to establish a clinically feasible approach, including image acquisition, correction, and CT formation, for pseudo-CT generation of the brain using a single-acquisition, undersampled ultrashort echo time (UTE)-mDixon pulse sequence.

Methods:

Nine patients were recruited for this study. For each patient, a 190-s, undersampled, single acquisition UTE-mDixon sequence of the brain was acquired (TE = 0.1, 1.5, and 2.8 ms). A novel method of retrospective trajectory correction of the free induction decay (FID) signal was performed based on point-spread functions of three external MR markers. Two-point Dixon images were reconstructed using the first and second echo data (TE = 1.5 and 2.8 ms). R2 images (1/T2) were then estimated and were used to provide bone information. Three image features, i.e., Dixon-fat, Dixon-water, and R2, were used for unsupervised clustering. Five tissue clusters, i.e., air, brain, fat, fluid, and bone, were estimated using the fuzzy c-means (FCM) algorithm. A two-step, automatic tissue-assignment approach was proposed and designed according to the prior information of the given feature space. Pseudo-CTs were generated by a voxelwise linear combination of the membership functions of the FCM. A low-dose CT was acquired for each patient and was used as the gold standard for comparison.

Results:

The contrast and sharpness of the FID images were improved after trajectory correction was applied. The mean of the estimated trajectory delay was 0.774 μs (max: 1.350 μs; min: 0.180 μs). The FCM-estimated centroids of different tissue types showed a distinguishable pattern for different tissues, and significant differences were found between the centroid locations of different tissue types. Pseudo-CT can provide additional skull detail and has low bias and absolute error of estimated CT numbers of voxels (−22 ± 29 HU and 130 ± 16 HU) when compared to low-dose CT.

Conclusions:

The MR features generated by the proposed acquisition, correction, and processing methods may provide representative clustering information and could thus be used for clinical pseudo-CT generation.

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