Visualization of gold fiducial markers in the prostate using phase-cycled bSSFP imaging for MRI-only radiotherapy

Shcherbakova, Yulia, Bartels, Lambertus Wilbert, Mandija, Stefano, Beld, Ellis, Seevinck, Peter R, van der Voort van Zyp, Jochem R N, Kerkmeijer, Linda G W, Moonen, Chrit T W, Lagendijk, Jan J W, Van den Berg, Cornelis A T


Physics in Medicine and Biology 64 (18), p. 185001


In this work, we present a new method for visualization of fiducial markers (FMs) in the prostate for MRI-only radiotherapy with a positive contrast directly at the MR console. The method is based on high bandwidth phase-cycled balanced steady-state free precession (bSSFP) sequence, which is available on many clinical scanners, does not require any additional post-processing or software, and has a higher signal-to-noise (SNR) compared to conventional gradient-echo (GE) imaging. Complex phase-cycled bSSFP data is acquired with different RF phase increment settings such that the manifestation of the artifacts around FMs in the acquired complex images is different for each dynamic acquisition and depends on the RF phase increment used. First, we performed numerical simulations to investigate the complex-valued phase-cycled bSSFP signal in the presence of a gold FM, and to investigate the relation of the true physical location of the FM with the geometrical manifestation of the artifacts. Next, to validate the simulations, we performed phantoms and in vivo studies and compared the experimentally obtained artifacts with those predicted in simulations. The accuracy of the method was assessed by comparing the distances between the FM's centers and the center of mass of FMs system measured using phase-cycled bSSFP MR images and using reference CT (or MRI-only) images. The results show accurate (within 1 mm) matching of FMs localization between CT and MR images on five patients, proving the feasibility of in vivo FMs detection on MR images only. The FMs show a positive contrast with respect to the prostate background on real/imaginary phase-cycled bSSFP images, which was confirmed by simulations. The proposed method facilitates robust FMs visualization with positive contrast directly at the MR console, allowing RT technicians to obtain immediate feedback on the anticipated feasibility of accurate FMs localization while the patient is being scanned.