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Deep learning-based magnetic resonance imaging reconstruction for improving the image quality of reduced-field-of-view diffusion-weighted imaging of the pancreas.

BACKGROUND: It has been reported that deep learning-based reconstruction (DLR) can reduce image noise and artifacts, thereby improving the signal-to-noise ratio and image sharpness. However, no previous studies have evaluated the efficacy of DLR in improving image quality in reduced-field-of-view (reduced-FOV) diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) [field-of-view optimized and constrained undistorted single-shot (FOCUS)] of the pancreas. We hypothesized that a combination of these techniques would improve DWI image quality without prolonging the scan time but would influence the apparent diffusion coefficient calculation.

AIM: To evaluate the efficacy of DLR for image quality improvement of FOCUS of the pancreas.

METHODS: This was a retrospective study evaluated 37 patients with pancreatic cystic lesions who underwent magnetic resonance imaging between August 2021 and October 2021. We evaluated three types of FOCUS examinations: FOCUS with DLR (FOCUS-DLR+), FOCUS without DLR (FOCUS-DLR-), and conventional FOCUS (FOCUS-conv). The three types of FOCUS and their apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps were compared qualitatively and quantitatively.

RESULTS: FOCUS-DLR+ (3.62, average score of two radiologists) showed significantly better qualitative scores for image noise than FOCUS-DLR- (2.62) and FOCUS-conv (2.88) ( P < 0.05). Furthermore, FOCUS-DLR+ showed the highest contrast ratio (CR) between the pancreatic parenchyma and adjacent fat tissue for b-values of 0 and 600 s/mm2 (0.72 ± 0.08 and 0.68 ± 0.08) and FOCUS-DLR- showed the highest CR between cystic lesions and the pancreatic parenchyma for the b-values of 0 and 600 s/mm2 (0.62 ± 0.21 and 0.62 ± 0.21) ( P < 0.05), respectively. FOCUS-DLR+ provided significantly higher ADCs of the pancreas and lesion (1.44 ± 0.24 and 3.00 ± 0.66) compared to FOCUS-DLR- (1.39 ± 0.22 and 2.86 ± 0.61) and significantly lower ADCs compared to FOCUS-conv (1.84 ± 0.45 and 3.32 ± 0.70) ( P < 0.05), respectively.

CONCLUSION: This study evaluated the efficacy of DLR for image quality improvement in reduced-FOV DWI of the pancreas. DLR can significantly denoise images without prolonging the scan time or decreasing the spatial resolution. The denoising level of DWI can be controlled to make the images appear more natural to the human eye. However, this study revealed that DLR did not ameliorate pancreatic distortion. Additionally, physicians should pay attention to the interpretation of ADCs after DLR application because ADCs are significantly changed by DLR.

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