Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE) is an MRI-based technique that is used for the clinical diagnosis and staging
of liver fibrosis by quantitatively measuring the stiffness of the liver. Due to the complexity of the signal characteristics
and the presence of artifacts both in the acquired images and in the resulting stiffness images, the selection of the ROI for the stiffness measurement is currently performed manually, which may lead to significant inter- and intrareader
variability. An algorithm has been developed to fully automate this analysis for liver MRE images. Automated segmentation of liver MRE images is challenging due to signal inhomogeneity, low contrast, and variability in patient anatomy. An initial liver contour is found by fitting Gaussian peaks to the image histogram and selecting the
peak that comprises intensities in the expected range and produces a mask near the expected location of the liver. After correction to reduce intensity inhomogeneity, an active contour based on intensity, with morphology used to implicitly enforce smoothness, is used to segment liver tissue while avoiding blood vessels. The resulting mask is used to initialize another segmentation which splits the region of the elastogram belonging to the liver into homogeneous liver tissue and areas with inclusions, partial volume effects, and artifacts. In a set of 88 cases the algorithm had a -6.0 ± 14.2% stiffness difference from an experienced reader, which was superior to the 6.8 ± 22.8% difference between two readers. The segmentation was run on an additional 200 cases and the final ROIs were subjectively rated by a radiologist. The ROIs in 98% of cases received an average rating of “good” or “acceptable.”
PURPOSE: To assess the feasibility of a modified phase-contrast MRI technique (MR Elastography) for quantitatively assessing the mechanical properties of hepatic tissues by imaging propagating acoustic shear waves. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Both phantom and human studies were performed to develop and optimize a practical imaging protocol by visualizing and investigating the diffraction field of shear waves generated from pneumatic longitudinal drivers. The effects of interposed ribs in a transcostal approach were also investigated. A gradient echo MRE pulse sequence was adapted for shear wave imaging in the liver during suspended respiration, and then tested to measure hepatic shear stiffness in 13 healthy volunteers and 1 patient with chronic liver disease to determine the potential of non-invasively detecting liver fibrosis. RESULTS: Phantom studies demonstrate that longitudinal waves generated by the driver are mode-converted to shear waves in a distribution governed by diffraction principles. The transcostal approach was determined to be the most effective method for generating shear waves in human studies. Hepatic stiffness measurements in the 13 normal volunteers demonstrated a mean value of 2.0±0.2kPa. The shear stiffness measurement in the patient was much higher at 8.5kPa. CONCLUSION: MR Elastography of the liver shows promise as a method to non-invasively detect and characterize diffuse liver disease, potentially reducing the need for biopsy to diagnose hepatic fibrosis.