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Phys Med Biol. 2016 Oct 21;61(20):7466-7483. Epub 2016 Oct 3.

A novel anthropomorphic flow phantom for the quantitative evaluation of prostate DCE-MRI acquisition techniques.

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National Centre for Advanced Medical Imaging (CAMI), St James's Hospital/School of Medicine, Trinity College University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


A novel anthropomorphic flow phantom device has been developed, which can be used for quantitatively assessing the ability of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to accurately measure signal/concentration time-intensity curves (CTCs) associated with dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI. Modelling of the complex pharmacokinetics of contrast agents as they perfuse through the tumour capillary network has shown great promise for cancer diagnosis and therapy monitoring. However, clinical adoption has been hindered by methodological problems, resulting in a lack of consensus regarding the most appropriate acquisition and modelling methodology to use and a consequent wide discrepancy in published data. A heretofore overlooked source of such discrepancy may arise from measurement errors of tumour CTCs deriving from the imaging pulse sequence itself, while the effects on the fidelity of CTC measurement of using rapidly-accelerated sequences such as parallel imaging and compressed sensing remain unknown. The present work aimed to investigate these features by developing a test device in which 'ground truth' CTCs were generated and presented to the MRI scanner for measurement, thereby allowing for an assessment of the DCE-MRI protocol to accurately measure this curve shape. The device comprised a four-pump flow system wherein CTCs derived from prior patient prostate data were produced in measurement chambers placed within the imaged volume. The ground truth was determined as the mean of repeat measurements using an MRI-independent, custom-built optical imaging system. In DCE-MRI experiments, significant discrepancies between the ground truth and measured CTCs were found for both tumorous and healthy tissue-mimicking curve shapes. Pharmacokinetic modelling revealed errors in measured K trans, v e and k ep values of up to 42%, 31%, and 50% respectively, following a simple variation of the parallel imaging factor and number of signal averages in the acquisition protocol. The device allows for the quantitative assessment and standardisation of DCE-MRI protocols (both existing and emerging).

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