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Investigative Radiology - Current Issue

Investigative Radiology - Current Issue
  1. Improved Delineation of Pulmonary Embolism and Venous Thrombosis Through Frequency Selective Nonlinear Blending in Computed Tomography
    imageObjective: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that a novel frequency selective nonlinear blending (NLB) algorithm increases the delineation of pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis in portal-venous phase whole-body staging computed tomography (CT). Materials and Methods: A cohort of 67 patients with incidental pulmonary embolism and/or venous thrombosis in contrast-enhanced oncological staging CT were retrospectively selected. Computed tomography data sets were acquired 65 to 90 seconds after intravenous iodine contrast administration using state-of-the-art multi-detector CT scanners. A novel frequency selective NLB postprocessing technique was applied to reconstructed standard CT images. Two readers determined the most suitable settings to increase the delineation of pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis. Outcome measure included region of interest and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) analyses, image noise, overall image quality, subjective delineation, as well as number and size of emboli and thrombi. Statistical testing included quantitative comparisons of Hounsfield units of thrombus and vessel, image noise and related CNR values and subjective image analyses of image noise, image quality and thrombus delineation, number and size in standard, and NLB images. Results: Using frequency selective NLB settings with a center of 100 HU, delta of 40 HU, and a slope of 5, CNR values of pulmonary embolism (StandardCNR, 10 [6, 16]; NLBCNR, 22 [15, 30]; P < 0.001) and venous thrombosis (StandardCNR, 8 [5, 15]; NLBCNR, 12 [7, 19]; P = 0.0007) increased. Mean vascular enhancement using NLB was significantly higher than in standard images for pulmonary arteries (Standard, 138 [118, 191] HU; NLB, 269 [176, 329] HU; P < 0.0001) and veins (Standard, 120 [103, 162] HU; NLB, 169 [132, 217] HU; P < 0.0001), respectively. Image noise was not significantly different between standard and NLB images (P = 0.64-0.88). There was substantial to almost perfect interrater agreement as well as a significant increase of overall image quality (P < 0.004) and subjective delineation of the thrombotic material (P < 0.0001) in both subgroups. Nonlinear blending images revealed 8 additional segmental and 13 subsegmental emboli. Thrombus sizes were not significantly different, but subjective accuracy of the measurement could be significantly increased using NLB (P = 0.03). Conclusions: Postprocessing of standard whole-body staging CT images with frequency selective NLB improves image quality and the delineation of pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis.

  2. Ex Vivo Assessment of Coronary Atherosclerotic Plaque by Grating-Based Phase-Contrast Computed Tomography: Correlation With Optical Coherence Tomography
    imageObjectives: The aim of this study was to determine the diagnostic accuracy of grating-based phase-contrast computed tomography (gb-PCCT) to classify and quantify coronary vessel characteristics in comparison with optical coherence tomography (OCT) and histopathology in an ex vivo setting. Materials and Methods: After excision from 5 heart specimens, 15 human coronary arteries underwent gb-PCCT examination using an experimental imaging setup consisting of a rotating molybdenum anode x-ray tube, a Talbot-Lau grating interferometer, and a single photon counting detector. Subsequently, all vessels were imaged by OCT and histopathologically processed. Optical coherence tomography, gb-PCCT, and histopathology images were manually matched using anatomical landmarks. Optical coherence tomography and gb-PCCT were reviewed by 2 independent observers blinded to histopathology. Vessel, lumen, and plaque area were measured, and plaque characteristics (lipid rich, calcified, and fibrous) were determined for each section. Measures of diagnostic accuracy were derived, applying histopathology as the standard of reference. Results: Of a total of 286 assessed cross sections, 241 corresponding sections were included in the statistical analysis. Quantitative measures derived from gb-PCCT were significantly higher than from OCT (P < 0.001) and were strongly correlated with histopathology (Pearson r ≥0.85 for gb-PCCT and ≥0.61 for OCT, respectively). Results of Bland-Altman analysis demonstrated smaller mean differences between OCT and histopathology than for gb-PCCT and histopathology. Limits of agreement were narrower for gb-PCCT with regard to lumen area, for OCT with regard to plaque area, and were comparable with regard to vessel area. Based on histopathology, 228/241 (94.6%) sections were classified as fibrous, calcified, or lipid rich. The diagnostic accuracy of gb-PCCT was excellent for the detection of all plaque components (sensitivity, ≥0.95; specificity, ≥0.94), whereas the results for OCT showed sensitivities of ≥0.73 and specificities of ≥0.66. Conclusions: In this ex vivo setting, gb-PCCT provides excellent results in the assessment of coronary atherosclerotic plaque characteristics and vessel dimensions in comparison to OCT and histopathology. Thus, the technique may serve as adjunct nondestructive modality for advanced plaque characterization in an experimental setting.

  3. Novel High Spatiotemporal Resolution Versus Standard-of-Care Dynamic Contrast-Enhanced Breast MRI: Comparison of Image Quality
    imageObjective: Currently, dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) prioritizes spatial resolution over temporal resolution given the limitations of acquisition techniques. The purpose of our intrapatient study was to assess the ability of a novel high spatial and high temporal resolution DCE breast MRI method to maintain image quality compared with the clinical standard-of-care (SOC) MRI. Materials and Methods: Thirty patients, each demonstrating a focal area of enhancement (29 benign, 1 cancer) on their SOC MRI, consented to undergo a research DCE breast MRI on a second date. For the research DCE MRI, a method (DIfferential Subsampling with Cartesian Ordering [DISCO]) using pseudorandom k-space sampling, view sharing reconstruction, 2-point Dixon fat-water separation, and parallel imaging was used to produce images with an effective temporal resolution 6 times faster than the SOC MRI (27 vs 168 seconds, respectively). Both the SOC and DISCO MRI scans were acquired with matching spatial resolutions of 0.8 × 0.8 × 1.6 mm3. Image quality (distortion/artifacts, resolution, fat suppression, lesion conspicuity, perceived signal-to-noise ratio, and overall image quality) was scored by 3 radiologists in a blinded reader study. Results: Differences in image quality scores between the DISCO and SOC images were all less than 0.8 on a 10-point scale, and both methods were assessed as providing diagnostic image quality in all cases. DISCO images with the same high spatial resolution, but 6 times the effective temporal resolution as the SOC MRI scans, were produced, yielding 20 postcontrast time points with DISCO compared with 3 for the SOC MRI, over the same total time interval. Conclusions: DISCO provided comparable image quality compared with the SOC MRI, while also providing 6 times faster effective temporal resolution and the same high spatial resolution.

  4. Intrathecal Contrast-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging–Related Brain Signal Changes: Residual Gadolinium Deposition?
    imageObjectives: There have been recent studies evaluating brain magnetic resonance imaging changes in patients with normal renal function, after intravenous administration of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs). Their findings were supported by histological evidence as well and brought a new vision concerning what needs to be learned to provide better patient care. In this report, we aim to present brain magnetic resonance imaging changes after intrathecal administration of a linear ionic agent (gadopentetate dimeglumine). Materials and Methods: We evaluated hyperintensities in the deep nuclei of the brain in 6 patients with normal renal function after intrathecal administration of a linear ionic GBCA, without other confounding intravenous GBCA administrations. For visual analysis, T1 signal hyperintensity of the globus pallidus (GP), putamen, pons, and dentate nucleus (DN) were scored on a 4-point scale. For quantitative analysis, using the unenhanced T1-weighted images oval regions of interests were placed within the DN, central pons, GP, and thalamus on different image slice positions. Results: On visual analysis, 5 patients had T1 signal hyperintensity of the DN and GP, whereas the DN/pons signal intensity and the GP/thalamus signal intensity were found to be increased in all 6. Conclusions: This observation not only adds to our fund of knowledge concerning biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of those agents, but also raises the question of a possible association with the glymphatic pathway.

  5. Comparison of the Detection Rate of Simulated Microcalcifications in Full-Field Digital Mammography, Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, and Synthetically Reconstructed 2-Dimensional Images Performed With 2 Different Digital X-ray Mammography Systems
    imageObjective: The aim of this study was to compare the microcalcification detectability in an anthropomorphic phantom model regarding number, size, and shape in full-field digital mammography (FFDM), synthetically reconstructed 2-dimensional (Synthetic-2D) images, and digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) performed with 2 different x-ray mammography systems. Materials and Methods: Simulated microcalcifications of different numbers (0 to >39), sizes (diameter, 100–800 μm), and shapes (round vs heterogeneous) were scattered by random distribution on 50 film phantoms each divided in 4 quadrants. The FFDM and DBT x-rays were taken from each of these 50 films with both x-ray mammography systems (SenoClaire; GE Healthcare, Selenia Dimensions, Hologic) using an anthropomorphic scattering body and automatic exposure control. The resulting exposure factors were similar to a clinical setting. The synthetically reconstructed 2D images were generated automatically on both systems. All FFDM, Synthetic-2D, and DBT images were interpreted in randomized order and independently of each other by 6 radiologists using a structured questionnaire. Results: The number categories of simulated microcalcifications were correctly evaluated in 55.3% of instances (quadrant by reader) in FFDM, 50.9% in the Synthetic-2D views, and 59.5% in DBT, summarized for 200 quadrants per reader for each Device A and B, respectively. Full-field digital mammography was superior to Synthetic-2D (mean difference, 4%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2%–7%; P < 0.001), and DBT was superior to both FFDM (mean difference, 4%; 95% CI, 2%–7%; P = 0.002) and Synthetic-2D (mean difference, 9%; 95% CI, 6%–11%; P < 0.001). This trend was consistent in all subgroup analyses. The number of the smallest microcalcifications (100–399 μm) was correctly evaluated in 25.2% of the FFDM, in 14.2% for Synthetic-2D, and in 28.3% of the DBT images. Underestimations of the number of simulated microcalcifications were more common than overestimations. Regarding the size categories of simulated microcalcifications, the rates of correct assessments were in 45.4% of instances in FFDM, 39.9% in the Synthetic-2D views, and 43.6% in DBT, summarized for 200 quadrants per reader and both imaging devices. Conclusions: In the presented in vitro environment using an anthropomorphic phantom model, standard full-field digital x-ray mammography was superior to synthetically reconstructed 2-dimensional images in the detection of simulated microcalcifications. In view of these results, it is questionable whether Synthetic-2D images can replace FFDM in clinical examinations at the present time. Further investigations are needed to assess the clinical impact of the in vitro results.

  6. Structured Reporting of Rectal Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Suspected Primary Rectal Cancer: Potential Benefits for Surgical Planning and Interdisciplinary Communication
    imageObjectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of structured reports (SRs) in comparison to nonstructured, free-text (FT) rectal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reports in patients with histologically proven rectal cancer and potential effects of both types of reporting on referring surgeons' satisfaction, interdisciplinary communication, and further clinical decision making. Materials and Methods: The institutional review board approved this retrospective study with waiver of informed consent. Forty-nine patients with histologically proven rectal cancer were included in this study. All patients underwent rectal MRI for local rectal cancer staging before surgery. Free-text reports and SRs for local MR staging of rectal cancer were generated for all subjects by radiologists. Two experienced abdominal surgeons evaluated a questionnaire that included 9 questions regarding satisfaction with content, presence of reported key features, effort for information extraction, and report quality. Results: Structured reports achieved significantly higher satisfaction rates with report content and clarity, and included significantly more of the 13 predefined key features compared with FT reports (SRs: mean ± SD, 12.2 ± 4.6 [range, 9–13] versus FT reports: mean ± SD, 9.2 ± 10.8 [range, 5–13]) (P < 0.001). Definite further clinical decision making (surgery vs neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy) was possible in 96% of SRs and only in 60% of FT reports (P < 0.001). In case of surgery, the reported information was considered to be sufficient for surgical planning in 94% of SRs versus only 38% in FT reports (P < 0.001). Structured report received a significantly higher overall report quality rated on a Likert scale from 1 to 6 (1, insufficient; 6, excellent) with a mean of 5.8 ± 0.42 (range, 5–6) in comparison to FT reports with 3.6 ± 1.19 (range, 1–5) (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Structured reporting of rectal MRI in patients with rectal cancer facilitates surgical planning and leads to a higher satisfaction level of referring surgeons in comparison to FT reports. Abdominal surgeons were more confident about report correctness and further clinical decision making on the basis of SRs.

  7. Aortic Volumetry at Contrast-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Angiography: Feasibility as a Sensitive Method for Monitoring Bicuspid Aortic Valve Aortopathy
    imageObjectives: Bicuspid aortic valve patients can develop thoracic aortic aneurysms and therefore require serial imaging to monitor aortic growth. This study investigates the reliability of contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography (CEMRA) volumetry compared with 2-dimensional diameter measurements to identify thoracic aortic aneurysm growth. Materials and Methods: A retrospective, institutional review board–approved, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act–compliant study was conducted on 20 bicuspid aortic valve patients (45 ± 8.9 years, 20% women) who underwent serial CEMRA with a minimum imaging follow-up of 11 months. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed at 1.5 T with electrocardiogram-gated, time-resolved CEMRA. Independent observers measured the diameter at the sinuses of Valsalva (SOVs) and mid ascending aorta (MAA) as well as ascending aorta volume between the aortic valve annulus and innominate branch. Intraobserver/interobserver coefficient of variation (COV) and intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) were computed to assess reliability. Growth rates were calculated and assessed by Student t test (P < 0.05, significant). The diameter of maximal growth (DMG), defined as the diameter at SOV or MAA with the faster growth rate, was recorded. Results: The mean time of follow-up was 2.6 ± 0.82 years. The intraobserver COV was 0.01 for SOV, 0.02 for MAA, and 0.02 for volume (interobserver COV: 0.02, 0.03, 0.04, respectively). The ICC was 0.83 for SOV, 0.86 for MAA, 0.90 for DMG, and 0.95 for volume. Average aortic measurements at baseline and (follow-up) were 42 ± 3 mm (42 ± 3 mm, P = 0.11) at SOV, 46 ± 4 mm (47 ± 4 mm, P < 0.05) at MAA, and 130 ± 23 mL (144 ± 24 mL, P < 0.05). Average size changes were 0.2 ± 0.6 mm/y (1% ± 2%) at SOV, 0.5 ± 0.8 mm/y (1% ± 2%) at MAA, 0.7 ± 0.7 mm/y (2% ± 2%) at DMG, and 6 ± 3 mL/y (4% ± 3%) with volumetry. Conclusions: Three-dimensional CEMRA volumetry exhibited a larger effect when examining percentage growth, a better ICC, and a marginally lower COV. Volumetry may be more sensitive to growth and possibly less affected by error than diameter measurements.

  8. An Image-Domain Contrast Material Extraction Method for Dual-Energy Computed Tomography
    imageObjectives: Conventional material decomposition techniques for dual-energy computed tomography (CT) assume mass or volume conservation, where the CT number of each voxel is fully assigned to predefined materials. We present an image-domain contrast material extraction process (CMEP) method that preferentially extracts contrast-producing materials while leaving the remaining image intact. Materials and Methods: Image processing freeware (Fiji) is used to perform consecutive arithmetic operations on a dual-energy ratio map to generate masks, which are then applied to the original images to generate material-specific images. First, a low-energy image is divided by a high-energy image to generate a ratio map. The ratio map is then split into material-specific masks. Ratio intervals known to correspond to particular materials (eg, iodine, calcium) are assigned a multiplier of 1, whereas ratio values in between these intervals are assigned linear gradients from 0 to 1. The masks are then multiplied by an original CT image to produce material-specific images. The method was tested quantitatively at dual-source CT and rapid kVp-switching CT (RSCT) with phantoms using pure and mixed formulations of tungsten, calcium, and iodine. Errors were evaluated by comparing the known material concentrations with those derived from the CMEP material-specific images. Further qualitative evaluation was performed in vivo at RSCT with a rabbit model using identical CMEP parameters to the phantom. Orally administered tungsten, vascularly administered iodine, and skeletal calcium were used as the 3 contrast materials. Results: All 5 material combinations—tungsten, iodine, and calcium, and mixtures of tungsten-calcium and iodine-calcium—showed distinct dual-energy ratios, largely independent of material concentration at both dual-source CT and RSCT. The CMEP was successful in both phantoms and in vivo. For pure contrast materials in the phantom, the maximum error between the known and CMEP-derived material concentrations was 0.9 mg/mL, 24.9 mg/mL, and 0.4 mg/mL for iodine, calcium, and tungsten respectively. Mixtures of iodine and calcium showed the highest discrepancies, which reflected the sensitivity of iodine to the image-type chosen for the extraction of the final material-specific image. The rabbit model was able to clearly show the 3 extracted material phases, vascular iodine, oral tungsten, and skeletal calcium. Some skeletal calcium was misassigned to the extracted iodine image; however, this did not impede the depiction of the vasculature. Conclusions: The CMEP is a straightforward, image-domain approach to extract material signal at dual-energy CT. It has particular value for separation of experimental high-Z contrast elements from conventional iodine contrast or calcium, even when the exact attenuation coefficient profiles of desired contrast materials may be unknown. The CMEP is readily implemented in the image-domain within freeware, and can be adapted for use with images from multiple vendors.

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