Cardiac MRI is limited by long acquisition times, yet faster acquisition of smaller-matrix images reduces spatial detail. Deep learning (DL) might enable both faster acquisition and higher spatial detail via super-resolution.
To explore the feasibility of using DL to enhance spatial detail from small-matrix MRI acquisitions and evaluate its performance against that of conventional image upscaling methods.
Materials and Methods
Short-axis cine cardiac MRI examinations performed between January 2012 and December 2018 at one institution were retrospectively collected for algorithm development and testing. Convolutional neural networks (CNNs), a form of DL, were trained to perform super resolution in image space by using synthetically generated low-resolution data. There were 70%, 20%, and 10% of examinations allocated to training, validation, and test sets, respectively. CNNs were compared against bicubic interpolation and Fourier-based zero padding by calculating the structural similarity index (SSIM) between high-resolution ground truth and each upscaling method. Means and standard deviations of the SSIM were reported, and statistical significance was determined by using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. For evaluation of clinical performance, left ventricular volumes were measured, and statistical significance was determined by using the paired Student t test.
For CNN training and retrospective analysis, 400 MRI scans from 367 patients (mean age, 48 years ± 18; 214 men) were included. All CNNs outperformed zero padding and bicubic interpolation at upsampling factors from two to 64 (P < .001). CNNs outperformed zero padding on more than 99.2% of slices (9828 of 9907). In addition, 10 patients (mean age, 51 years ± 22; seven men) were prospectively recruited for super-resolution MRI. Super-resolved low-resolution images yielded left ventricular volumes comparable to those from full-resolution images (P > .05), and super-resolved full-resolution images appeared to further enhance anatomic detail.
Deep learning outperformed conventional upscaling methods and recovered high-frequency spatial information. Although training was performed only on short-axis cardiac MRI examinations, the proposed strategy appeared to improve quality in other imaging planes.
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