Simultaneous Multislice Diffusion-Weighted Imaging of the Kidney: A Systematic Analysis of Image Quality

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The aims of this study were to implement a protocol for simultaneous multislice (SMS) accelerated diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) of the kidneys and to perform a systematic analysis of image quality of the data sets.

Materials and Methods

Ten healthy subjects and 5 patients with renal masses underwent DWI of the kidney in this prospective institutional review board–approved study on a 3 T magnetic resonance scanner. Simultaneous multislice DWI echo-planar sequences (acceleration factors [AFs] 2 and 3) were compared with conventional echo-planar DWI as reference standard for each acquisition scheme. The following 3 acquisition schemes were applied: comparison A, with increased number of acquisitions at constant scan time; comparison B, with reduction of acquisition time; and comparison C, with increased slice resolution (constant acquisition time, increasing number of slices). Interreader reliability was analyzed by calculating the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC). Qualitative image quality features were evaluated by 2 independent radiologists on a 5-point Likert scale. Quantification accuracy of the apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) and signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) were assessed by region of interest analysis. Furthermore, lesion conspicuity in the 5 patients was assessed using a 5-point Likert scale by 2 independent radiologists.


Interreader agreement was substantial with an ICC of 0.68 for the overall image quality and an ICC of 0.73 for the analysis of artifacts. In comparison A, AF2 resulted in increased SNR (P < 0.05) by 21% at stable image quality scores (image quality: P = 0.76, artifacts: P = 0.21). In comparison B, applying AF2, the scan time could be reduced by 46% without significant reduction in qualitative image quality scores (P = 0.059) or SNR (P = 0.126). In comparison C, slice resolution could be improved by 28% using AF2 with stable image quality scores and SNR. In general, AF3 resulted in reduced image quality and SNR. Significantly reduced ADC values were observed for AF3 in comparison C (cortex: P = 0.003; medulla: P = 0.001) compared with the standard echo-planar imaging sequence. The conventional DWI and the SMS DWI with AF2 showed stable lesion conspicuity ([AF1/AF2]: reader 1 [1.8/1.4] and reader 2 [1.8/1.4]). The lesion conspicuity was lower using AF3 (reader 1: 2.2 and reader 2: 1.8).


In conclusion, SMS DWI of the kidney is a potential tool to substantially reduce scan time without negative effects on SNR, ADC quantification accuracy, and image quality if an AF2 is used. Although AF3 results in even higher scan time reduction, a negative impact on image quality, SNR, ADC quantification accuracy, and lesion conspicuity must be considered.

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