4D tumor centroid tracking using orthogonal 2D dynamic MRI: Implications for radiotherapy planning

Erik Tryggestad, Aaron Flammang, Russell Hales, Joseph Herman, Junghoon Lee, Todd McNutt, Teboh Roland, Steven M. Shea, John Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Purpose: Current pretreatment, 4D imaging techniques are suboptimal in that they sample breathing motion over a very limited "snapshot" in time. Heretofore, long-duration, 4D motion characterization for radiotherapy planning, margin optimization, and validation have been impractical for safety reasons, requiring invasive markers imaged under x-ray fluoroscopy. To characterize 3D tumor motion and associated variability over durations more consistent with treatments, the authors have developed a practical dynamic MRI (dMRI) technique employing two orthogonal planes acquired in a continuous, interleaved fashion. Methods: 2D balanced steady-state free precession MRI was acquired continuously over 9-14 min at approximately 4 Hz in three healthy volunteers using a commercial 1.5 T system; alternating orthogonal imaging planes (sagittal, coronal, sagittal, etc.) were employed. The 2D in-plane pixel resolution was 2 × 2 mm2 with a 5 mm slice profile. Simultaneous with image acquisition, the authors monitored a 1D surrogate respiratory signal using a device available with the MRI system. 2D template matching-based anatomic feature registration, or tracking, was performed independently in each orientation. 4D feature tracking at the raw frame rate was derived using spline interpolation. Results: Tracking vascular features in the lung for two volunteers and pancreatic features in one volunteer, the authors have successfully demonstrated this method. Registration error, defined here as the difference between the sagittal and coronal tracking result in the SI direction, ranged from 0.7 to 1.6 mm (1σ) which was less than the acquired image resolution. Although the healthy volunteers were instructed to relax and breathe normally, significantly variable respiration was observed. To demonstrate potential applications of this technique, the authors subsequently explored the intrafraction stability of hypothetical tumoral internal target volumes and 3D spatial probability distribution functions. The surrogate respiratory information allowed the authors to show how this technique can be used to study correlations between internal and external (surrogate) information over these prolonged durations. However, compared against the gold standard of the time stamps in the dMRI frames, the temporal synchronization of the surrogate 1D respiratory information was shown to be likely unreliable. Conclusions: The authors have established viability of a novel and practical pretreatment, 4D tumor centroid tracking method employing a commercially available dynamic MRI sequence. Further developments from the vendor are likely needed to provide a reliably synchronized surrogate 1D respiratory signal, which will likely broaden the utility of this method in the pretreatment radiotherapy planning context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number091712
JournalMedical physics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • 4D tracking, dynamic MRI
  • 4D-MRI, tumor tracking
  • tumor-surrogate motion correlation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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