Comparison of regularization methods for human cardiac diffusion tensor MRI

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Diffusion tensor MRI (DT-MRI) is an imaging technique that is gaining importance in clinical applications. However, there is very little work concerning the human heart. When applying DT-MRI to in vivo human hearts, the data have to be acquired rapidly to minimize artefacts due to cardiac and respiratory motion and to improve patient comfort, often at the expense of image quality. This results in diffusion weighted (DW) images corrupted by noise, which can have a significant impact on the shape and orientation of tensors and leads to diffusion tensor (DT) datasets that are not suitable for fibre tracking. This paper compares regularization approaches that operate either on diffusion weighted images or on diffusion tensors. Experiments on synthetic data show that, for high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), the methods operating on DW images produce the best results; they substantially reduce noise error propagation throughout the diffusion calculations. However, when the SNR is low, Rician Cholesky and Log-Euclidean DT regularization methods handle the bias introduced by Rician noise and ensure symmetry and positive definiteness of the tensors. Results based on a set of sixteen ex vivo human hearts show that the different regularization methods tend to provide equivalent results.

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