Super-Resolution of Cardiac MR Cine Imaging using Conditional GANs and Unsupervised Transfer Learning.
Xia Y., Ravikumar N., Greenwood JP., Neubauer S., Petersen SE., Frangi AF.
High-resolution (HR), isotropic cardiac Magnetic Resonance (MR) cine imaging is challenging since it requires long acquisition and patient breath-hold times. Instead, 2D balanced steady-state free precession (SSFP) sequence is widely used in clinical routine. However, it produces highly-anisotropic image stacks, with large through-plane spacing that can hinder subsequent image analysis. To resolve this, we propose a novel, robust adversarial learning super-resolution (SR) algorithm based on conditional generative adversarial nets (GANs), that incorporates a state-of-the-art optical flow component to generate an auxiliary image to guide image synthesis. The approach is designed for real-world clinical scenarios and requires neither multiple low-resolution (LR) scans with multiple views, nor the corresponding HR scans, and is trained in an end-to-end unsupervised transfer learning fashion. The designed framework effectively incorporates visual properties and relevant structures of input images and can synthesise 3D isotropic, anatomically plausible cardiac MR images, consistent with the acquired slices. Experimental results show that the proposed SR method outperforms several state-of-the-art methods both qualitatively and quantitatively. We show that subsequent image analyses including ventricle segmentation, cardiac quantification, and non-rigid registration can benefit from the super-resolved, isotropic cardiac MR images, to produce more accurate quantitative results, without increasing the acquisition time. The average Dice similarity coefficient (DSC) for the left ventricular (LV) cavity and myocardium are 0.95 and 0.81, respectively, between real and synthesised slice segmentation. For non-rigid registration and motion tracking through the cardiac cycle, the proposed method improves the average DSC from 0.75 to 0.86, compared to the original resolution images.