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Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) holds great potential to provide new metabolic information for clinical applications such as tumor, stroke and Parkinson's Disease diagnosis. Many active research and developments have been conducted to translate this emerging MRI technique for routine clinical applications. In general, there are two CEST quantification techniques: (i) model-free and (ii) model-based techniques. The reliability of these quantification techniques depends heavily on the experimental conditions and quality of the collected data. Errors such as noise may lead to misleading quantification results and thus inaccurate diagnosis when CEST imaging becomes a standard or routine imaging scan in the future. This paper investigates the accuracy and robustness of these quantification techniques under different signal-to-noise (SNR) levels and magnetic field strengths. The quantified CEST effect before and after adding random Gaussian White Noise using model-free and model-based quantification techniques were compared. It was found that the model-free technique consistently yielded larger average percentage error across all tested parameters compared to its model-based counterpart, and that the model-based technique could withstand SNR of about 3 times lower than the model-free technique. When applied on noisy brain tumor, ischemic stroke, and Parkinson's Disease clinical data, the model-free technique failed to produce significant differences between normal and abnormal tissue whereas the model-based technique consistently generated significant differences. Although the model-free technique was less accurate and robust, its simplicity and thus speed would still make it a good approximate when the SNR was high (>50) or when the CEST effect was large and well-defined. For more accurate CEST quantification, model-based techniques should be considered. When SNR was low (<50) and the CEST effect was small such as those acquired from clinical field strength scanners, which are generally 3T and below, model-based techniques should be considered over model-free counterpart to maintain an average percentage error of less than 44% even under very noisy condition as tested in this work.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of magnetic resonance (San Diego, Calif. : 1997)
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