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Phase contrast magnetic resonance imaging (PC-MRI) is a specific type of magnetic resonance imaging used primarily to determine flow velocities. PC-MRI can be considered a method of Magnetic Resonance Velocimetry. It also provides a method of magnetic resonance angiography. Since modern PC-MRI is typically time-resolved, it provides a means of 4D imaging (three spatial dimensions plus time).[2]

Phase contrast magnetic resonance imaging
Medical diagnostics
Vastly undersampled Isotropic Projection Reconstruction (VIPR) Phase Contrast (PC) sequence MRI of arterial dissections.jpg
Vastly undersampled Isotropic Projection Reconstruction (VIPR) of a Phase Contrast (PC) MRI sequence of a 56 year-old male with dissections of the celiac artery (upper) and the superior mesenteric artery (lower). Laminar flow is present in the true lumen (closed arrow) and helical flow is present in the false lumen (open arrow).[1]
Purposemethod of magnetic resonance angiograph

Contents

How it WorksEdit

Atoms with an odd number of protons or neutrons have a randomly aligned angular spin momentum. When placed in a strong magnetic field, some of these spins align with the axis of the external field, which causes a net 'longitudinal' magnetization. These spins precess about the axis of the external field at a frequency proportional to the strength of that field. Then, energy is added to the system through a Radio frequency (RF) pulse to 'excite' the spins, changing the axis that the spins precess about. These spins can then be observed by receiver coils (Radiofrequency coils) using Faraday's law of induction. Different tissues respond to the added energy in different ways, and imaging parameters can be adjusted to highlight desired tissues.

All of these spins have a phase that is dependent on the atom's velocity. Phase shift   of a spin is a function of the gradient field  :

 

where   is the Gyromagnetic ratio and   is defined as:

  ,

  is the initial position of the spin,   is the spin velocity, and   is the spin acceleration.

If we only consider static spins and spins in the x-direction, we can rewrite equation for phase shift as:

 

We then assume that acceleration and higher order terms are negligible to simplify the expression for phase to:

 

where   is the zeroth moment of the x-gradient and   is the first moment of the x gradient.

If we take two different acquisitions with applied magnetic gradients that are the opposite of each other (bipolar gradients), we can add the results of the two acquisitions together to calculate a change in phase that is dependent on gradient:

 

where  .[3][4]

The phase shift is measured and converted to a velocity according to the following equation:

 

where   is the maximum velocity that can be recorded and   is the recorded phase shift.

The choice of   defines range of velocities visible, known as the ‘dynamic range’. A choice of   below the maximum velocity in the slice will induce aliasing in the image where a velocity just greater than   will be incorrectly calculated as moving in the opposite direction. However, there is a direct trade-off between the maximum velocity that can be encoded and the signal-to-noise ratio of the velocity measurements. This can be described by:

 

where   is the signal-to-noise ratio of the image (which depends on the magnetic field of the scanner, the voxel volume, and the acquisition time of the scan).

For an example, setting a ‘low’   (below the maximum velocity expected in the scan) will allow for better visualization of slower velocities (better SNR), but any higher velocities will alias to an incorrect value. Setting a ‘high’   (above the maximum velocity expected in the scan) will allow for the proper velocity quantification, but the larger dynamic range will obscure the smaller velocity features as well as decrease SNR. Therefore, the setting of   will be application dependent and care must be exercised in the selection.

To allow for more flexibility in selecting  , instantaneous phase (phase unwrapping) can be used to increase both dynamic range and SNR.[5]

Encoding MethodsEdit

When each dimension of velocity is calculated based on acquisitions from oppositely applied gradients, this is known as a six-point method. However, more efficient methods are also used. Two are described here:

Simple Four-point MethodEdit

Four sets of encoding gradients are used. The first is a reference and applies a negative moment in  , , and  . The next applies a positive moment in  , and a negative moment in   and  . The third applies a positive moment in  , and a negative moment in   and  . And the last applies a positive moment in  , and a negative moment in   and  .[6] Then, the velocities can be solved based on the phase information from the corresponding phase encodes as follows:

 
 
 

Balanced Four-Point MethodEdit

The balanced four-point method also includes four sets of encoding gradients. The first is the same as in the simple four-point method with negative gradients applied in all directions. The second has a negative moment in  , and a positive moment in   and  . The third has a negative moment in  , and a positive moment in   and  . The last has a negative moment in   and a positive moment in   and  .[7] This gives us the following system of equations:

 
 
 

Then, the velocities can be calculated:

 
 
 

Retrospective Cardiac and Respiratory GatingEdit

For medical imaging, in order to get highly resolved scans in 3D space and time without motion artifacts from the heart or lungs, retrospective cardiac gating and respiratory compensation are employed. Beginning with cardiac gating, the patient’s ECG signal is recorded throughout the imaging process. Similarly, the patient’s respiratory patterns can be tracked throughout the scan. After the scan, the continuously collected data in k-space (temporary image space) can be assigned accordingly to match-up with the timing of the heart beat and lung motion of the patient. This means that these scans are cardiac-averaged so the measured blood velocities are an average over multiple cardiac cycles.[8]

ApplicationsEdit

Phase contrast MRI is one of the main techniques for magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). This is used to generate images of arteries (and less commonly veins) in order to evaluate them for stenosis (abnormal narrowing), occlusions, aneurysms (vessel wall dilatations, at risk of rupture) or other abnormalities. MRA is often used to evaluate the arteries of the neck and brain, the thoracic and abdominal aorta, the renal arteries, and the legs (the latter exam is often referred to as a "run-off").

LimitationsEdit

In particular, a few limitations of PC-MRI are of importance for the measured velocities:

  • Partial volume effects (when a voxel contains the boundary between static and moving materials) can overestimate phase leading to inaccurate velocities at the interface between materials or tissues.
  • Intravoxel phase dispersion (when velocities within a pixel are heterogeneous or in areas of turbulent flow) can produce a resultant phase that does not resolve the flow features accurately.
  • Assuming that acceleration and higher orders of motion are negligible can be inaccurate depending on the flow field.
  • Displacement artifacts (also known as misregistration and oblique flow artifacts) occur when there is a time difference between the phase and frequency encoding. These artifacts are highest when the flow direction is within the slice plane (most prominent in the heart and aorta for biological flows)[9]

Vastly undersampled Isotropic Projection Reconstruction (VIPR)Edit

A Vastly undersampled Isotropic Projection Reconstruction (VIPR) is a radially acquired MRI sequence which results in high-resolution MRA with significantly reduced scan times, and without the need for breath-holding.[10]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Hartung, Michael P; Grist, Thomas M; François, Christopher J (2011). "Magnetic resonance angiography: current status and future directions". Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance. 13 (1): 19. doi:10.1186/1532-429X-13-19. ISSN 1532-429X. PMC 3060856. PMID 21388544. (CC-BY-2.0)
  2. ^ Stankovic, Zoran; Allen, Bradley D.; Garcia, Julio; Jarvis, Kelly B.; Markl, Michael (2014). "4D flow imaging with MRI". Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy. 4 (2): 173–192. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2223-3652.2014.01.02. PMC 3996243. PMID 24834414.
  3. ^ Elkins, C.; Alley, M.T. (2007). "Magnetic resonance velocimetry: applications of magnetic resonance imaging in the measurement of fluid motion". Experiments in Fluids. 43 (6): 823. Bibcode:2007ExFl...43..823E. doi:10.1007/s00348-007-0383-2.
  4. ^ Taylor, Charles A.; Draney, Mary T. (2004). "Experimental and computational methods in cardiovascular fluid mechanics". Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. 36: 197–231. Bibcode:2004AnRFM..36..197T. doi:10.1146/annurev.fluid.36.050802.121944.
  5. ^ Salfitya, M.F.; Huntleya, J.M.; Gravesb, M.J.; Marklundc, O.; Cusackd, R.; Beauregardd, D.A. (2006). "Extending the dynamic range of phase contrast magnetic resonance velocity imaging using advanced higher-dimensional phase unwrapping algorithms". Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 3 (8): 415–427. doi:10.1098/rsif.2005.0096. PMC 1578755. PMID 16849270.
  6. ^ Pelc, Norbert J.; Bernstein, Matt A.; Shimakawa, Ann; Glover, Gary H. (1991). "Encoding strategies for three‐direction phase‐contrast MR imaging of flow". Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 1 (4): 405–413. doi:10.1002/jmri.1880010404.
  7. ^ Pelc, Norbert J.; Bernstein, Matt A.; Shimakawa, Ann; Glover, Gary H. (1991). "Encoding strategies for three‐direction phase‐contrast MR imaging of flow". Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 1 (4): 405–413. doi:10.1002/jmri.1880010404.
  8. ^ Lotz, Joachim; Meier, Christian; Leppert, Andreas; Galanski, Michael (2002). "Cardiovascular Flow Measurement with Phase-Contrast MR Imaging: Basic Facts and Implementation 1". Radiographics. 22 (3): 651–671. doi:10.1148/radiographics.22.3.g02ma11651. PMID 12006694.
  9. ^ Petersson, Sven; Dyverfeldt, Petter; Gårdhagen, Roland; Karlsson, Matts; Ebbers, Tino (2010). "Simulation of phase contrast MRI of turbulent flow". Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 64 (4): 1039–1046. doi:10.1002/mrm.22494. PMID 20574963.
  10. ^ Page 602 in: Hersh Chandarana (2015). Advanced MR Imaging in Clinical Practice, An Issue of Radiologic Clinics of North America. 53. Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 9780323376181.