Background: Intravoxel incoherent motion (IVIM) imaging of diffusion and perfusion in the heart suffers from high parameter estimation error. The purpose of this work is to improve cardiac IVIM parameter mapping using Bayesian inference.
Methods: A second-order motion-compensated diffusion weighted spin-echo sequence with navigator-based slice tracking was implemented to collect cardiac IVIM data in early systole in eight healthy subjects on a clinical 1.5 T CMR system. IVIM data were encoded along six gradient optimized directions with b-values of 0–300 s/mm2. Subjects were scanned twice in two scan sessions one week apart to assess intra-subject reproducibility. Bayesian shrinkage prior (BSP) inference was implemented to determine IVIM parameters (diffusion D, perfusion fraction F and pseudo-diffusion D*). Results were compared to least-squares (LSQ) parameter estimation. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) requirements for a given fitting error were assessed for the two methods using simulated data. Reproducibility analysis of parameter estimation in-vivo using BSP and LSQ was performed.
Results: BSP resulted in reduced SNR requirements when compared to LSQ in simulations. In-vivo, BSP analysis yielded IVIM parameter maps with smaller intra-myocardial variability and higher estimation certainty relative to LSQ. Mean IVIM parameter estimates in eight healthy subjects were (LSQ/BSP): 1.63 ± 0.28/1.51 ± 0.14·10−3 mm2/s for D, 13.13 ± 19.81/13.11 ± 5.95% for F and 201.45 ± 313.23/13.11 ± 14.53·10−3 mm2/s for D ∗. Parameter variation across all volunteers and measurements was lower with BSP compared to LSQ (coefficient of variation BSP vs. LSQ: 9% vs. 17% for D, 45% vs. 151% for F and 111% vs. 155% for D ∗). In addition, reproducibility of the IVIM parameter estimates was higher with BSP compared to LSQ (Bland-Altman coefficients of repeatability BSP vs. LSQ: 0.21 vs. 0.26·10−3 mm2/s for D, 5.55 vs. 6.91% for F and 15.06 vs. 422.80·10−3 mm2/s for D*).
Conclusion: Robust free-breathing cardiac IVIM data acquisition in early systole is possible with the proposed method. BSP analysis yields improved IVIM parameter maps relative to conventional LSQ fitting with fewer outliers, improved estimation certainty and higher reproducibility. IVIM parameter mapping holds promise for myocardial perfusion measurements without the need for contrast agents.