A general framework for optimizing arterial spin labeling MRI experiments.
Woods JG., Chappell MA., Okell TW.
PURPOSE: Arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI is a non-invasive perfusion imaging technique that is inherently SNR limited, so scan protocols ideally need to be rigorously optimized to provide the most accurate measurements. A general framework is presented for optimizing ASL experiments to achieve optimal accuracy for perfusion estimates and, if required, other hemodynamic parameters, within a fixed scan time. The effectiveness of this framework is then demonstrated by optimizing the post-labeling delays (PLDs) of a multi-PLD pseudo-continuous ASL experiment and validating the improvement using simulations and in vivo data. THEORY AND METHODS: A simple framework is proposed based on the use of the Cramér-Rao lower bound to find the protocol design which minimizes the predicted parameter estimation errors. Protocols were optimized for cerebral blood flow (CBF) accuracy or both CBF and arterial transit time (ATT) accuracy and compared to a conventional multi-PLD protocol, with evenly spaced PLDs, and a single-PLD protocol, using simulations and in vivo experiments in healthy volunteers. RESULTS: Simulations and in vivo data agreed extremely well with the predicted performance of all protocols. For the in vivo experiments, optimizing for just CBF resulted in a 48% and 15% decrease in CBF errors, relative to the reference multi-PLD and single-PLD protocols, respectively. Optimizing for both CBF and ATT reduced CBF errors by 37%, without a reduction in ATT accuracy, relative to the reference multi-PLD protocol. CONCLUSION: The presented framework can effectively design ASL experiments to minimize measurement errors based on the requirements of the scan.