A Patch-Wise Deep Learning Approach for Myocardial Blood Flow Quantification with Robustness to Noise and Nonrigid Motion
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Quantitative analysis of dynamic contrast-enhanced cardiovascular MRI (cMRI) datasets enables the assessment of myocardial blood flow (MBF) for objective evaluation of ischemic heart disease in patients with suspected coronary artery disease. State-of-the-art MBF quantification techniques use constrained deconvolution and are highly sensitive to noise and motion-induced errors, which can lead to unreliable outcomes in the setting of high-resolution MBF mapping. To overcome these limitations, recent iterative approaches incorporate spatial-smoothness constraints to tackle pixel-wise MBF mapping. However, such iterative methods require a computational time of up to 30 minutes per acquired myocardial slice, which is a major practical limitation. Furthermore, they cannot enforce robustness to residual nonrigid motion which can occur in clinical stress/rest studies of patients with arrhythmia. We present a non-iterative patch-wise deep learning approach for pixel-wise MBF quantification wherein local spatio-temporal features are learned from a large dataset of myocardial patches acquired in clinical stress/rest cMRI studies. Our approach is scanner-independent, computationally efficient, robust to noise, and has the unique feature of robustness to motion-induced errors. Numerical and experimental results obtained using real patient data demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach.Clinical Relevance- The proposed patch-wise deep learning approach significantly improves the reliability of high-resolution myocardial blood flow quantification in cMRI by improving its robustness to noise and nonrigid myocardial motion and is up to 300-fold faster than state-of-the-art iterative approaches.