Multi-centre, multi-vendor reproducibility of 7T QSM and R2* in the human brain: Results from the UK7T study.
Rua C., Clarke WT., Driver ID., Mougin O., Morgan AT., Clare S., Francis S., Muir KW., Wise RG., Carpenter TA., Williams GB., Rowe JB., Bowtell R., Rodgers CT.
INTRODUCTION: We present the reliability of ultra-high field T2* MRI at 7T, as part of the UK7T Network's "Travelling Heads" study. T2*-weighted MRI images can be processed to produce quantitative susceptibility maps (QSM) and R2* maps. These reflect iron and myelin concentrations, which are altered in many pathophysiological processes. The relaxation parameters of human brain tissue are such that R2* mapping and QSM show particularly strong gains in contrast-to-noise ratio at ultra-high field (7T) vs clinical field strengths (1.5-3T). We aimed to determine the inter-subject and inter-site reproducibility of QSM and R2* mapping at 7T, in readiness for future multi-site clinical studies. METHODS: Ten healthy volunteers were scanned with harmonised single- and multi-echo T2*-weighted gradient echo pulse sequences. Participants were scanned five times at each "home" site and once at each of four other sites. The five sites had 1× Philips, 2× Siemens Magnetom, and 2× Siemens Terra scanners. QSM and R2* maps were computed with the Multi-Scale Dipole Inversion (MSDI) algorithm (https://github.com/fil-physics/Publication-Code). Results were assessed in relevant subcortical and cortical regions of interest (ROIs) defined manually or by the MNI152 standard space. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Mean susceptibility (χ) and R2* values agreed broadly with literature values in all ROIs. The inter-site within-subject standard deviation was 0.001-0.005 ppm (χ) and 0.0005-0.001 ms-1 (R2*). For χ this is 2.1-4.8 fold better than 3T reports, and 1.1-3.4 fold better for R2*. The median ICC from within- and cross-site R2* data was 0.98 and 0.91, respectively. Multi-echo QSM had greater variability vs single-echo QSM especially in areas with large B0 inhomogeneity such as the inferior frontal cortex. Across sites, R2* values were more consistent than QSM in subcortical structures due to differences in B0-shimming. On a between-subject level, our measured χ and R2* cross-site variance is comparable to within-site variance in the literature, suggesting that it is reasonable to pool data across sites using our harmonised protocol. CONCLUSION: The harmonized UK7T protocol and pipeline delivers on average a 3-fold improvement in the coefficient of reproducibility for QSM and R2* at 7T compared to previous reports of multi-site reproducibility at 3T. These protocols are ready for use in multi-site clinical studies at 7T.