Artificial Intelligence for Contrast-free MRI: Scar Assessment in Myocardial Infarction Using Deep Learning-based Virtual Native Enhancement (VNE)
Zhang Q., Burrage MK., Shanmuganathan M., Gonzales RA., Lukaschuk E., Thomas KE., Mills R., Leal Pelado J., Nikolaidou C., Popescu IA., Lee YP., Zhang X., Dharmakumar R., Myerson SG., Rider O., Channon KM., Neubauer S., Piechnik SK., Ferreira VM.
Background: Myocardial scar is currently assessed non-invasively using cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) as an imaging gold-standard. However, a contrast-free approach would provide many advantages, including a faster and cheaper scan, without contrast-associated problems. Methods: Virtual Native Enhancement (VNE) is a novel technology that can produce virtual LGE-like images, without the need for contrast. VNE combines cine imaging and native T1-maps to produce LGE-like images using artificial intelligence (AI). VNE was developed for patients with prior myocardial infarction on 4271 datasets (912 patients), where each dataset is comprised of slice position-matched cine, T1-maps and LGE images. After quality control, 3002 datasets (775 patients) were used for development, and 291 datasets (68 patients) for testing. The VNE generator was trained using generative adversarial networks, employing two adversarial discriminators to improve the image quality. The left ventricle was contoured semi-automatically. Myocardial scar volume was quantified using the full width at half maximum method. Scar transmurality was measured using the centerline chord method and visualized on bull's eye plots. Lesion quantification by VNE and LGE were compared using linear regression, Pearson correlation (R) and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). Proof-of-principle histopathological comparison of VNE in a porcine model of myocardial infarction was also performed. Results: VNE provided significantly better image quality than LGE on blinded analysis by 5 independent operators on 291 datasets (all p<0.001). VNE correlated strongly with LGE in quantifying scar size (R=0.89, ICC=0.94) and transmurality (R=0.84, ICC=0.90) in 66 patients (277 test datasets). Two CMR experts reviewed all test image slices and reported an overall accuracy of 84% of VNE in detecting scar when compared with LGE, with specificity of 100% and sensitivity of 77%. VNE also showed excellent visuospatial agreement with histopathology in 2 cases of a porcine model of myocardial infarction. Conclusions: VNE demonstrated high agreement with LGE-CMR for myocardial scar assessment in patients with prior myocardial infarction in visuospatial distribution and lesion quantification, with superior image quality. VNE is a potentially transformative AI-based technology, with promise to reduce scan times and costs, increase clinical throughput, and improve the accessibility of CMR in the very-near future.