De-noising of Contrast-Enhanced MRI Sequences by an Ensemble of Expert Deep Neural Networks
Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) is an imaging protocol where MRI scans are acquired repetitively throughout the injection of a contrast agent. The analysis of dynamic scans is widely used for the detection and quantification of blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability. Extraction of the pharmacokinetic (PK) parameters from the DCE-MRI washout curves allows quantitative assessment of the BBB functionality. Nevertheless, curve fitting required for the analysis of DCE-MRI data is error-prone as the dynamic scans are subject to non-white, spatially-dependent and anisotropic noise that does not fit standard noise models. The two existing approaches i.e. curve smoothing and image de-noising can either produce smooth curves but cannot guaranty fidelity to the PK model or cannot accommodate the high variability in noise statistics in time and space.
We present a novel framework based on Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) to address the DCE-MRI de-noising challenges. The key idea is based on an ensembling of expert DNNs, where each is trained for different noise characteristics and curve prototypes to solve an inverse problem on a specific subset of the input space. The most likely reconstruction is then chosen using a classifier DNN. As ground-truth (clean) signals for training are not available, a model for generating realistic training sets with complex nonlinear dynamics is presented. The proposed approach has been applied to DCE-MRI scans of stroke and brain tumor patients and is shown to favorably compare to state-of-the-art de-noising methods, without degrading the contrast of the original images.
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