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.
7 tesla, MRI, Multi-centre, Quantitative susceptibility mapping, R(2)* mapping, Reproducibility, Adult, Brain, Brain Mapping, Female, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Reproducibility of Results