Accurate quantification of fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) in MR diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) requires adequate signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) especially in low FA areas of the brain, which necessitates clinically impractical long image acquisition times. We explored a SNR enhancement strategy using region-of-interest (ROI)-based diffusion tensor for quantification. DTI scans from a healthy male were acquired 15 times and combined into sets with different number of signal averages (NSA = 1–4, 15) at one 1.5-T Philips and three 3-T (Philips, Siemens and GE) scanners. Equivalence test was performed to determine NSA thresholds for bias-free FA and MD quantifications by comparison with reference values derived from images with NSA = 15. We examined brain areas with low FA values including caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, putamen, superior temporal gyrus, and substructures within thalamus (lateral dorsal, ventral anterior and posterior nuclei), where bias-free FA is difficult to obtain using a conventional approach. Our results showed that bias-free FA can be obtained with NSA = 2 or 3 in some cases using ROI-based analysis. ROI-based analysis allows reliable FA and MD quantifications in various brain structures previously difficult to study with clinically feasible data acquisition schemes.
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