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Interplay between intensity standardization and inhomogeneity correction in MR image processing

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2 Author(s)
Madabhushi, A. ; Dept. of Radiol., Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA ; Udupa, J.K.

Image intensity standardization is a postprocessing method designed for correcting acquisition-to-acquisition signal intensity variations (nonstandardness) inherent in magnetic resonance (MR) images. Inhomogeneity correction is a process used to suppress the low frequency background nonuniformities (inhomogeneities) of the image domain that exist in MR images. Both these procedures have important implications in MR image analysis. The effects of these postprocessing operations on improvement of image quality in isolation has been well documented. However, the combined effects of these two processes on MR images and how the processes influence each other have not been studied thus far. In this paper, we evaluate the effect of inhomogeneity correction followed by standardization and vice-versa on MR images in order to determine the best sequence to follow for enhancing image quality. We conducted experiments on several clinical and phantom data sets (nearly 4000 three-dimensional MR images were analyzed) corresponding to four different MRI protocols. Different levels of artificial nonstandardness, and different models and levels of artificial background inhomogeneity were used in these experiments. Our results indicate that improved standardization can be achieved by preceding it with inhomogeneity correction. There is no statistically significant difference in image quality obtained between the results of standardization followed by correction and that of correction followed by standardization from the perspective of inhomogeneity correction. The correction operation is found to bias the effect of standardization. We demonstrate this bias both qualitatively and quantitatively by using two different methods of inhomogeneity correction. We also show that this bias in standardization is independent of the specific inhomogeneity correction method used. The effect of this bias due to correction was also seen in magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) images, which are naturall- - y endowed with the standardness property. Standardization, on the other hand, does not seem to influence the correction operation. It is also found that longer sequences of repeated correction and standardization operations do not considerably improve image quality. These results were found to hold for the clinical and the phantom data sets, for different MRI protocols, for different levels of artificial nonstandardness, for different models and levels of artificial inhomogeneity, for different correction methods, and for images that were endowed with inherent standardness as well as for those that were standardized by using the intensity standardization method. Overall, we conclude that inhomogeneity correction followed by intensity standardization is the best sequence to follow from the perspective of both image quality and computational efficiency.

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Medical Imaging, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:24 ,  Issue: 5 )