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Phys Med Biol. 2006 Sep 7;51(17):4147-69. Epub 2006 Aug 8.

MRI-based measurements of respiratory motion variability and assessment of imaging strategies for radiotherapy planning.

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  • 1Centre for Medical Image Computing, University College London, WC1E 6BT, UK.


Respiratory organ motion has a significant impact on the planning and delivery of radiotherapy (RT) treatment for lung cancer. Currently widespread techniques, such as 4D-computed tomography (4DCT), cannot be used to measure variability of this motion from one cycle to the next. In this paper, we describe the use of fast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to investigate the intra- and inter-cycle reproducibility of respiratory motion and also to estimate the level of errors that may be introduced into treatment delivery by using various breath-hold imaging strategies during lung RT planning. A reference model of respiratory motion is formed to enable comparison of different breathing cycles at any arbitrary position in the respiratory cycle. This is constructed by using free-breathing images from the inhale phase of a single breathing cycle, then co-registering the images, and thereby tracking landmarks. This reference model is then compared to alternative models constructed from images acquired during the exhale phase of the same cycle and the inhale phase of a subsequent cycle, to assess intra- and inter-cycle variability ('hysteresis' and 'reproducibility') of organ motion. The reference model is also compared to a series of models formed from breath-hold data at exhale and inhale. Evaluation of these models is carried out on data from ten healthy volunteers and five lung cancer patients. Free-breathing models show good levels of intra- and inter-cycle reproducibility across the tidal breathing range. Mean intra-cycle errors in the position of organ surface landmarks of 1.5(1.4)-3.5(3.3) mm for volunteers and 2.8(1.8)-5.2(5.2) mm for patients. Equivalent measures of inter-cycle variability across this range are 1.7(1.0)-3.9(3.3) mm for volunteers and 2.8(1.8)-3.3(2.2) mm for patients. As expected, models based on breath-hold sequences do not represent normal tidal motion as well as those based on free-breathing data, with mean errors of 4.4(2.2)-7.7(3.9) mm for volunteers and 10.1(6.1)-12.5(6.3) mm for patients. Errors are generally larger still when using a single breath-hold image at either exhale or inhale to represent the lung. This indicates that account should be taken of intra- and inter-cycle respiratory motion variability and that breath-hold-based methods of obtaining data for RT planning may potentially introduce large errors. This approach to analysis of motion and variability has potential to inform decisions about treatment margins and optimize RT planning.

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