Radiology. 2022 Nov 8:220522. doi: 10.1148/radiol.220522. Online ahead of print.
Background Portable, low-field-strength (0.064-T) MRI has the potential to transform neuroimaging but is limited by low spatial resolution and low signal-to-noise ratio. Purpose To implement a machine learning super-resolution algorithm that synthesizes higher spatial resolution images (1-mm isotropic) from lower resolution T1-weighted and T2-weighted portable brain MRI scans, making them amenable to automated quantitative morphometry. Materials and Methods An external high-field-strength MRI data set (1-mm isotropic scans from the Open Access Series of Imaging Studies data set) and segmentations for 39 regions of interest (ROIs) in the brain were used to train a super-resolution convolutional neural network (CNN). Secondary analysis of an internal test set of 24 paired low- and high-field-strength clinical MRI scans in participants with neurologic symptoms was performed. These were part of a prospective observational study (August 2020 to December 2021) at Massachusetts General Hospital (exclusion criteria: inability to lay flat, body habitus preventing low-field-strength MRI, presence of MRI contraindications). Three well-established automated segmentation tools were applied to three sets of scans: high-field-strength (1.5-3 T, reference standard), low-field-strength (0.064 T), and synthetic high-field-strength images generated from the low-field-strength data with the CNN. Statistical significance of correlations was assessed with Student t tests. Correlation coefficients were compared with Steiger Z tests. Results Eleven participants (mean age, 50 years ± 14; seven men) had full cerebrum coverage in the images without motion artifacts or large stroke lesion with distortion from mass effect. Direct segmentation of low-field-strength MRI yielded nonsignificant correlations with volumetric measurements from high field strength for most ROIs (P > .05). Correlations largely improved when segmenting the synthetic images: P values were less than .05 for all ROIs (eg, for the hippocampus [r = 0.85; P < .001], thalamus [r = 0.84; P = .001], and whole cerebrum [r = 0.92; P < .001]). Deviations from the model (z score maps) visually correlated with pathologic abnormalities. Conclusion This work demonstrated proof-of-principle augmentation of portable MRI with a machine learning super-resolution algorithm, which yielded highly correlated brain morphometric measurements to real higher resolution images. © RSNA, 2022 Online supplemental material is available for this article. See also the editorial by Ertl-Wagner amd Wagner in this issue.