SNR Efficiency of Combined Bipolar Gradient Echoes: Comparison of Three-Dimensional FLASH, MPRAGE, and Multiparameter Mapping With VFA-FLASH and MP2RAGE

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Abstract

Purpose:

High-bandwidth bipolar multiecho gradient echo sequences are increasingly popular in structural brain imaging because of reduced water–fat shifts, lower susceptibility effects, and improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) efficiency. In this study, we investigated the performance of three three-dimensional multiecho sequences (MPRAGE, MP2RAGE, and FLASH) with scan times < 9 min and 1-mm isotropic resolution against their single-echo, low-bandwidth counterparts at 3T. We also compared the performance of multiparameter mapping (PD, T1, and Symbol) with bipolar multiecho MP2RAGE versus the variable flip angle technique with multiecho FLASH (VFA-FLASH).

Methods:

Multiecho sequences were optimized to yield equivalent contrast and improved SNR compared with their single-echo counterparts. Theoretical SNR gains were verified with measurements in a multilayered phantom. Robust image processing pipelines extracted PD, T1, and Symbol maps from MP2RAGE or VFA-FLASH, and the corresponding SNR was measured with varying SENSE accelerations (R = 1–5) and number of echoes (N = 1–12). All sequences were tested on four healthy volunteers.

Results:

Multiecho sequences achieved SNR gains of 1.3–1.6 over single-echo sequences. MP2RAGE yielded comparable T1-to-noise ratio to VFA-FLASH, but significantly lower SNR (<50%) in PD and Symbol maps. Measured SNR gains agreed with the theoretical predictions for SENSE accelerations ≤3.

Conclusion:

Multiecho sequences achieve higher SNR efficiency over conventional single-echo sequences, despite three-fold higher sampling bandwidths. VFA-FLASH surpasses MP2RAGE in its ability to map three parameters with high SNR and 1-mm isotropic resolution in a clinically relevant scan time (∼8:30 min), whereas MP2RAGE yields lower intersubject variability in T1.

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