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Dark-Blood Computed Tomography Angiography Combined With Deep Learning Reconstruction for Cervical Artery Wall Imaging in Takayasu Arteritis.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the image quality of novel dark-blood computed tomography angiography (CTA) imaging combined with deep learning reconstruction (DLR) compared to delayed-phase CTA images with hybrid iterative reconstruction (HIR), to visualize the cervical artery wall in patients with Takayasu arteritis (TAK).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This prospective study continuously recruited 53 patients with TAK (mean age: 33.8 ± 10.2 years; 49 females) between January and July 2022 who underwent head-neck CTA scans. The arterial- and delayed-phase images were reconstructed using HIR and DLR. Subtracted images of the arterial-phase from the delayed-phase were then added to the original delayed-phase using a denoising filter to generate the final-dark-blood images. Qualitative image quality scores and quantitative parameters were obtained and compared among the three groups of images: Delayed-HIR, Dark-blood-HIR, and Dark-blood-DLR.

RESULTS: Compared to Delayed-HIR, Dark-blood-HIR images demonstrated higher qualitative scores in terms of vascular wall visualization and diagnostic confidence index (all P < 0.001). These qualitative scores further improved after applying DLR (Dark-blood-DLR compared to Dark-blood-HIR, all P < 0.001). Dark-blood DLR also showed higher scores for overall image noise than Dark-blood-HIR ( P < 0.001). In the quantitative analysis, the contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) values between the vessel wall and lumen for the bilateral common carotid arteries and brachiocephalic trunk were significantly higher on Dark-blood-HIR images than on Delayed-HIR images (all P < 0.05). The CNR values were significantly higher for Dark-blood-DLR than for Dark-blood-HIR in all cervical arteries (all P < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Compared with Delayed-HIR CTA, the dark-blood method combined with DLR improved CTA image quality and enhanced visualization of the cervical artery wall in patients with TAK.

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