Distortion-free diffusion MRI using an MRI-guided Tri-Cobalt 60 radiotherapy system: Sequence verification and preliminary clinical experience

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Monitoring tumor response during the course of treatment and adaptively modifying treatment plan based on tumor biological feedback may represent a new paradigm for radiotherapy. Diffusion MRI has shown great promises in assessing and predicting tumor response to radiotherapy. However, the conventional diffusion-weighted single-shot echo-planar-imaging (DW-ssEPI) technique suffers from limited resolution, severe distortion, and possibly inaccurate ADC at low field strength. The purpose of this work was to develop a reliable, accurate and distortion-free diffusion MRI technique that is practicable for longitudinal tumor response evaluation and adaptive radiotherapy on a 0.35 T MRI-guided radiotherapy system.


A diffusion-prepared turbo spin echo readout (DP-TSE) sequence was developed and compared with the conventional diffusion-weighted single-shot echo-planar-imaging sequence on a 0.35 T MRI-guided radiotherapy system (ViewRay). A spatial integrity phantom was used to quantitate and compare the geometric accuracy of the two diffusion sequences for three orthogonal orientations. The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) accuracy was evaluated on a diffusion phantom under both 0 °C and room temperature to cover a diffusivity range between 0.40 × 10−3 and 2.10 × 10−3 mm2/s. Ten room temperature measurements repeated on five different days were conducted to assess the ADC reproducibility of DP-TSE. Two glioblastoma (GBM) and six sarcoma patients were included to examine the in vivo feasibility. The target registration error (TRE) was calculated to quantitate the geometric accuracy where structural CT or MR images were co-registered to the diffusion images as references. ADC maps from DP-TSE and DW-ssEPI were calculated and compared. A tube phantom was placed next to patients not treated on ViewRay, and ADCs of this reference tube were also compared.


The proposed DP-TSE passed the spatial integrity test (< 1 mm within 100 mm radius and < 2 mm within 175 mm radius) under the three orthogonal orientations. The detected errors were 0.474 ± 0.355 mm, 0.475 ± 0.287 mm, and 0.546 ± 0.336 mm in the axial, coronal, and sagittal plane. DW-ssEPI, however, failed the tests due to severe distortion and low signal intensity. Noise correction must be performed for the DW-ssEPI to avoid ADC quantitation errors, whereas it is optional for DP-TSE. At 0 °C, the two sequences provided accurate quantitation with < 3% variation with the reference. In the room temperature study, discrepancies between ADCs from DP-TSE and the reference were within 4%, but could be as high as 8% for DW-ssEPI after the noise correction. Excellent ADC reproducibility with a coefficient of variation < 5% was observed among the 10 measurements of DP-TSE, indicating desirable robustness for ADC-based tumor response assessment. In vivo TRE in DP-TSE was less than 1.6 mm overall, whereas it could be greater than 12 mm in DW-ssEPI. For GBM patients, the CSF and brain tissue ADCs from DP-TSE were within the ranges found in literature. ADC differences between the two techniques were within 8% among the six sarcoma patients. For the reference tube that had a relatively low diffusivity, the two diffusion sequences provided matched measurements.


A diffusion technique with excellent geometric fidelity, accurate, and reproducible ADC measurement was demonstrated for longitudinal tumor response assessment using a low-field MRI-guided radiotherapy system.

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