Variable Flip Angle T1 Consistency with and without Compensating for B1+ inhomogeneity in 3T Prostate MRI
Xinran Zhong1,2, Sepideh Shakeri1, Dapeng Liu1, James Sayre1, Steven S. Raman1, Holden H. Wu1,2, and Kyunghyun Sung1,2

1Department of Radiological Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 2Physics and Biology in Medicine IDP, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States


Reliable pre-contrast T1 estimation is crucial for quantitative DCE MRI. Variable flip angle is widely used for pre-contrast T1 measurements and is sensitive to B1+ inhomogeneity. Although various B1+ techniques have been proposed, the application of B1+ compensation is not widely accepted yet. In this study, by evaluating T1 intra-scanner and inter-scanner consistency with and without B1+ compensation, we confirmed the necessity to perform B1+ compensation and a B1+ estimation method named reference region variable flip angle (RR-VFA) is recommended due to its consistent T1 estimation and wide availability.


A reliable quantitative dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI is beneficial for prostate cancer diagnosis as well as treatment monitoring.1 However, the quantification process can be hindered by multiple error sources2, including uncertainties in the estimation of pre-contrast T1. Variable flip angle (VFA) T1 estimation is commonly used for prostate DCE-MRI, but VFA T1 is known to be sensitive to B1+ inhomogeneity3. In this study, we evaluated both intra-scanner and inter-scanner variabilities of VFA T1 estimation with and without compensating for B1+ inhomogeneity in 3T prostate MRI. We used two B1+ mapping techniques, one is based on saturated turbo FLASH (satTFL)4, recommended by the vendor, and the other is reference region VFA (RR-VFA)5,6, a recently proposed technique that does not need an extra scan and potentially has wide availability across all MRI systems.


With IRB approval, twenty-one volunteers (27±4 years old) were prospectively recruited to assess intra- and inter-scanner variabilities. Each subject was scanned twice on two 3.0T scanners (Skyra – Scanner 1 and Prisma – Scanner 2, Siemens Healthineers) resulting in total 84 scans, as summarized in Fig. 1. The imaging protocol consisted of 2D T2-weighted (T2W) turbo spin echo (TSE) sequence, 2D satTFL sequence for B1+ estimation and 3D VFA T1 weighted sequences with a dual-echo readout for both T1 estimation and RR-VFA B1+ estimation. After processing, each scan resulted in one anatomical T2W image, two B1+ maps and three T1 images. We mainly evaluated the three T1 maps, including VFA T1 map (T1,VFA), T1 map with satTFL B1+ compensation (T1,satTFL) and T1 map with RR-VFA B1+ compensation (T1,RR-VFA).

To account for the position mismatch between the scans for each volunteer, rigid registration was performed for each volunteer based on T2W images and applied to corresponding B1+ and T1 maps. An experienced radiologist delineated volumetric regions of interest (ROIs) on T2W images in the prostate, left pelvic muscle and right pelvic muscle. The ROIs were transferred to T1 maps and the average T1 values within the ROIs were recorded for later comparison.

Lin’s Concordance Correlation Coefficient (CCC) was used to evaluate both intra- and inter-scanner T1 consistency. There were in total two pairs of intra-scanner comparisons and four pairs of inter-scanner comparisons. For each pair of comparison, CCC was calculated and then averaged based on intra- or inter-scanner comparison respectively. To visualize the T1 estimation consistency, linear regression plots as well as Bland-Altman plots were shown for one representative pair of comparison, and the Pearson’s correlation and limits of agreements were recorded.

Results and Discussion

One example slice of T1 within the ROIs overlaid on T2W images were shown in Fig. 2. The figure first demonstrated that the image registration between scans achieved reasonable results, making applying the same set of ROIs on four scans at the same time feasible. More importantly, T1, VFA within prostate ROI exhibited large variance across four scans and T1,VFA within the left and right pelvic muscles ROIs had inconsistent T1 values for the same scan. T1,satTFL and T1,RR-VFA on the other hand achieved more consistent T1 estimation both between scans and within the same scan.

Linear regression plots in Fig. 3 and Bland Altman plots in Fig. 4 also confirmed this observation. In Fig. 3, T1,RR-VFA had the regression slope closer to 1 and larger Pearson’s correlation square r2 compare to T1,VFA and T1,satTFL. Similarly, the Bland Altman plots in Fig. 4 showed that the T1 estimation for each tissue becomes more consistent for B1+ corrected T1 maps (T1,satTFL and T1,RR-VFA) compared to T1,VFA. The 95% limits of agreement of B1+ corrected T1 were narrower than those in T1,VFA.

The averaged CCC and standard deviation were reported in Table 1. T1, RR-VFA had higher CCC (0.914 for intra-scanner and 0.897 for inter-scanner comparison) compared to T1,satTFL (0.906 for intra-scanner and 0.880 for inter-scanner comparison) and T1,VFA (0.881 for intra-scanner and 0.795 for inter-scanner comparison).


T1 estimation with B1+ compensation in 3.0 T prostate MRI improved both intra-scanner and inter-scanner T1 estimation consistency. RR-VFA B1+ correction provided at least comparable performance compared to satTFL B1+ correction and is recommended in clinical practice due to its wide availability and no extra scan requirement.


The study was supported by funding from the Integrated Diagnostics program of the Departments of Radiological Sciences & Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.


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Figure 1. Experiment design summary. Each volunteer was scanned four times on two 3.0 T scanners. The volunteers were repositioned between two scans on the same scanner, and the time interval between scans on two scanners varies from same-day to 70 days. Each scan consists of three different sequences and after post-processing, we obtained one T2W image, two B1+ maps and three T1 maps to analyze.

Figure 2. T1 value within ROIs overlaid on T2W image after registration on one representative slice. Each row represents one T1 map, and each column represents one scan. After registration, four scans were aligned, and the same set of ROIs can be applied to four scans at the same time. With B1+ compensation, T1,satTFL and T1,RR-VFA had more consistent T1 value in the prostate across different scans, and the T1 value of left and right pelvic muscles for each scan became more uniform compared to T1,VFA.

Figure 3. Linear Regression and squared Pearson’s Correlation (r2) for both intra-scanner comparison between Scan 1 and Scan 2 on Scanner 1 (a-c) and inter-scanner comparison between Scan 1 on Scanner 1 and Scan 1 on Scanner 2 (d-f) of average T1 within each ROI. Each encoded color indicates one ROI. T1,RR-VFA has the highest r2.

Figure 4. Bland Altman plots for both intra-scanner comparison between Scan 1 and Scan 2 on Scanner 1 (a-c) and inter-scanner comparison between Scan 1 on Scanner 1 and Scan 1 on Scanner 2 (d-f) of average T1 within each ROI. Each encoded color indicates one ROI. T1,satTFL and T1,RR-VFA have a more uniform T1 value for each tissue, and a narrower limits of agreement compared to T1,VFA.

Table 1. Average CCC and standard deviation for intra-scanner and inter-scanner comparison for T1,VFA, T1,satTFL and T1,RR-VFA. T1,RR-VFA had the highest CCC for both intra-scanner and inter-scanner comparison.

Proc. Intl. Soc. Mag. Reson. Med. 27 (2019)