Phase unwrapping with a rapid opensource minimum spanning tree algorithm (ROMEO)

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Abstract

PURPOSE: To develop a rapid and accurate MRI phase-unwrapping technique for challenging phase topographies encountered at high magnetic fields, around metal implants, or postoperative cavities, which is sufficiently fast to be applied to large-group studies including Quantitative Susceptibility Mapping and functional MRI (with phase-based distortion correction). METHODS: The proposed path-following phase-unwrapping algorithm, ROMEO, estimates the coherence of the signal both in space-using MRI magnitude and phase information-and over time, assuming approximately linear temporal phase evolution. This information is combined to form a quality map that guides the unwrapping along a 3D path through the object using a computationally efficient minimum spanning tree algorithm. ROMEO was tested against the two most commonly used exact phase-unwrapping methods, PRELUDE and BEST PATH, in simulated topographies and at several field strengths: in 3T and 7T in vivo human head images and 9.4T ex vivo rat head images. RESULTS: ROMEO was more reliable than PRELUDE and BEST PATH, yielding unwrapping results with excellent temporal stability for multi-echo or multi-time-point data. It does not require image masking and delivers results within seconds, even in large, highly wrapped multi-echo data sets (eg, 9 seconds for a 7T head data set with 31 echoes and a 208 × 208 × 96 matrix size). CONCLUSION: Overall, ROMEO was both faster and more accurate than PRELUDE and BEST PATH, delivering exact results within seconds, which is well below typical image acquisition times, enabling potential on-console application.

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