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Geometric validation of self‐gating k‐space‐sorted 4D‐MRI vs 4D‐CT using a respiratory motion phantom

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MRI is increasingly being used for radiotherapy planning, simulation, and in-treatment-room motion monitoring. To provide more detailed temporal and spatial MR data for these tasks, we have recently developed a novel self-gated (SG) MRI technique with advantage of k-space phase sorting, high isotropic spatial resolution, and high temporal resolution. The current work describes the validation of this 4D-MRI technique using a MRI- and CT-compatible respiratory motion phantom and comparison to 4D-CT.


The 4D-MRI sequence is based on a spoiled gradient echo-based 3D projection reconstruction sequence with self-gating for 4D-MRI at 3 T. Respiratory phase is resolved by using SG k-space lines as the motion surrogate. 4D-MRI images are reconstructed into ten temporal bins with spatial resolution 1.56 × 1.56 × 1.56 mm(3). A MRI-CT compatible phantom was designed to validate the performance of the 4D-MRI sequence and 4D-CT imaging. A spherical target (diameter 23 mm, volume 6.37 ml) filled with high-concentration gadolinium (Gd) gel is embedded into a plastic box (35 × 40 × 63 mm(3)) and stabilized with low-concentration Gd gel. The phantom, driven by an air pump, is able to produce human-type breathing patterns between 4 and 30 respiratory cycles/min. 4D-CT of the phantom has been acquired in cine mode, and reconstructed into ten phases with slice thickness 1.25 mm. The 4D images sets were imported into a treatment planning software for target contouring. The geometrical accuracy of the 4D MRI and CT images has been quantified using target volume, flattening, and eccentricity. The target motion was measured by tracking the centroids of the spheres in each individual phase. Motion ground-truth was obtained from input signals and real-time video recordings.


The dynamic phantom has been operated in four respiratory rate (RR) settings, 6, 10, 15, and 20/min, and was scanned with 4D-MRI and 4D-CT. 4D-CT images have target-stretching, partial-missing, and other motion artifacts in various phases, whereas the 4D-MRI images are visually free of those artifacts. Volume percentage difference for the 6.37 ml target ranged from 5.3% ± 4.3% to 10.3% ± 5.9% for 4D-CT, and 1.47 ± 0.52 to 2.12 ± 1.60 for 4D-MRI. With an increase of respiratory rate, the target volumetric and geometric deviations increase for 4D-CT images while remaining stable for the 4D-MRI images. Target motion amplitude errors at different RRs were measured with a range of 0.66-1.25 mm for 4D-CT and 0.2-0.42 mm for 4D-MRI. The results of Mann-Whitney tests indicated that 4D-MRI significantly outperforms 4D-CT in phase-based target volumetric (p = 0.027) and geometric (p < 0.001) measures. Both modalities achieve equivalent accuracy in measuring motion amplitude (p = 0.828).


The k-space self-gated 4D-MRI technique provides a robust method for accurately imaging phase-based target motion and geometry. Compared to 4D-CT, the current 4D-MRI technique demonstrates superior spatiotemporal resolution, and robust resistance to motion artifacts caused by fast target motion and irregular breathing patterns. The technique can be used extensively in abdominal targeting, motion gating, and toward implementing MRI-based adaptive radiotherapy.

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