Discussion paper // Sonderforschungsbereich 386 der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München 356
In the field of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) has proven an important method for the characterisation of ultrastructural tissue properties. Yet various technical and biological sources of signal uncertainty may prolong into variables derived from diffusion weighted images and thus compromise data validity and reliability. To gain an objective quality rating of real raw data we aimed at implementing the previously described bootstrap methodology (Efron, 1979) and investigating its sensitivity to a selection of extraneous influencing factors. We applied the bootstrap method on real DTI data volumes of six volunteers which were varied by different acquisition conditions, smoothing and artificial noising. In addition a clinical sample group of 46 Multiple Sclerosis patients and 24 healthy controls was investigated. The response variables (RV) extracted from the histogram of the confidence intervals of fractional anisotropy were mean width, peak position and height. The addition of noising showed a significant effect when exceeding about 130% of the original background noise. The application of an edge-preserving smoothing algorithm resulted in an inverse alteration of the RV. Subject motion was also clearly depicted whereas its prevention by use of a vacuum device only resulted in a marginal improvement. We also observed a marked gender-specific effect in a sample of 24 healthy control subjects the causes of which remained unclear. In contrary to this, the mere effect of a different signal intensity distribution due to illness (Multiple Sclerosis) did not alter the response variables. In conclusion bootstrap procedure could be proved to be a highly sensitive, however unspecific method in order to assess DTI data quality.