Ultrahigh magnetic fields of 7 T or higher have proven to significantly enhance the contrast in time-of-flight (TOF) imaging, one of the most commonly used non–contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography techniques. Compared with lower field strength, however, the required radiofrequency (RF) power is increased at 7 T and the contrast obtained with a conventional head transmit RF coil is typically spatially heterogeneous.
In this work, we addressed the contrast heterogeneity in multislab TOF acquisitions by optimizing the excitation flip angle homogeneity while constraining the RF power using 3-dimensional tailored RF pulses (“spokes”) with a 16-channel parallel transmission system and a 16-channel transceiver head coil.
We investigated in simulations and in vivo experiments flip angle homogeneity and angiogram quality with a same 3-slab TOF protocol for different excitations including 1-, 2-, and 3-spoke parallel transmit RF pulses and compared the results with a circularly polarized (CP) phase setting similar to a birdcage excitation. B1 and B0 calibration maps were obtained in multiple slices, and the RF pulse for each slab was designed on the basis of 3 calibration slices located at the bottom/middle/top of each slab, respectively. By design, all excitations were computed to generate the same total RF power for the same flip angle. In 8 subjects, we quantified the excitation homogeneity and the distribution of the RF power to individual channels. In addition, we investigated the consequences of local flip angle variations at the junction between adjacent slabs as well as the impact of ΔB0 on image quality.
The flip angle heterogeneity, expressed as the coefficient of variation, averaged over all volunteers and all slabs could be reduced from 29.4% for CP mode excitation to 14.1% for a 1-spoke excitation and to 7.3% for 2-spoke excitations. A separate detailed analysis shows only a marginal improvement for 3-spoke compared with the 2-spoke excitation. The strong improvement in flip angle homogeneity particularly impacted the junction between adjacent TOF slabs, where significant residual artifacts observed with 1-spoke excitation could be efficiently mitigated using a 2-spoke excitation with same RF power and same average flip angle. Although the total RF power is maintained at the same level than that in CP mode excitation, the energy distribution is fairly heterogeneous through the 16 transmit channels for 1- and 2-spoke excitations, with the highest energy for 1 channel being a factor of 2.4 (1 spoke) and 2.2 (2 spokes) higher than that in CP mode. In vivo experiments demonstrated the necessity for including ΔB0 spatial variations during 2-spoke RF pulse design, particularly in areas with strong local susceptibility variations such as the lower frontal lobe.
Significant improvement in excitation fidelity leading to improved TOF contrast, particularly in the brain periphery, as well as smooth slab transitions can be achieved with 2-spoke excitation while maintaining the same excitation energy as that in CP mode. These results suggest that expanding parallel transmit methods, including the use of multidimensional spatially selective excitation, will also be very beneficial for other techniques, such as perfusion imaging.
From the *Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN; and †MR Application Development, Siemens Healthcare, Erlangen, Germany.
Received for publication August 1, 2013; and accepted for publication, after revision, December 7, 2013.
Conflicts of interest and sources of funding: Supported by National Institutes of Health grant numbers P41 EB008079, S10 RR026783, P30 NS076408, R21-EB009138; Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft SCHM 2677/1-1; and WM Keck Foundation.
The authors Josef Pfeuffer and Michael Hamm are employees of Siemens Healthcare, Erlangen, Germany.
The concepts and information presented in this article are based on research and are not commercially available.
Reprints: Sebastian Schmitter, PhD, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, University of Minnesota Medical School, 2021 6th St SE Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.