Minimizing magnetic resonance image geometric distortion at 7 Tesla for frameless presurgical planning using skin-adhered fiducials

Krystal M. Kirby, Emily K. Koons, Kirk M. Welker, Andrew J. Fagan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: 7T MRI offers significant benefits to spatial and contrast resolution compared to lower field strengths. This superior image quality can help better delineate targets in stereotactic neurosurgical procedures; however, the potential for increased geometric distortions at 7T has impaired its widespread use for these applications. Image geometric distortions can be due to distortions of B0 arising from tissue magnetic susceptibility effects or inherent field inhomogeneities, and nonlinearity of the magnetic field gradients. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of 7T MRI for neurosurgical frameless stereotactic navigation procedures. Image geometric distortions at the skin surface in 7T images were minimized and compared to results from clinical 3T frameless imaging protocols. Methods: A 3D-printed grid phantom filled with oil was designed to perform a fine calibration of the 7T imaging gradients, and an oil-filled head phantom with internal targets was used to determine ground truth (from computed tomography [CT]) positioning errors. Three volunteers and the head phantom were imaged consecutively at 3T and 7T. Ten skin-adhesive fiducial markers were placed on each subject's exposed skin surface at standard clinical placement locations for frameless procedures. Imaging sequences included MPRAGE (three bandwidths at 7T: 400, 690, and 1020 Hz/pixel, and one at 3T: 400 Hz/pixel), T2 SPACE, and T2 SPACE FLAIR acquisitions. An additional GRE field map was acquired on both scanners using a multi-echo GRE sequence. Custom Matlab code was used to perform additional distortion correction of the images using the unwrapped field maps. Fiducial localization was performed with 3D Slicer, with absolute fiducial positioning errors determined in phantom experiments following rigid registration to the CT images. For human experiments, 3T and 7T images were registered and relative differences in fiducial locations were compared using two-tailed paired t-tests. Results: Phantom measurements at 7T yielded gradient distance scaling errors of 1.1%, 2.2%, and 1.0% along the x-, y-, and z-axes, respectively. These system miscalibrations were traced back to phantom manufacturing deviations in the sphericity of the vendor's gradient calibration phantom. Correction factors along each gradient axis were applied, and afterward, geometric distortions of less than 1 mm were obtained in the 7T MR head phantom images for the 1020 Hz/pixel bandwidth MPRAGE sequence. For the human subjects, four fiducial locations were excluded from the analysis due to patient positioning differences. Differences between 3T and 7T MPRAGE with low/medium/high bandwidth were 2.2 /2.6/2.3 mm, respectively, before the correction, reducing to 1.6/1.3/1.0 mm after the correction (p < 0.001). T2 SPACE and T2 SPACE FLAIR yielded a similar pattern when the correction was applied, decreasing from 2.1 to 0.8 mm, and 2.6 to 1.0 mm, respectively. Conclusions: 7T MRI can be used to perform frameless presurgical planning with skin-adhesive fiducials. Geometric distortions can be reduced to a clinically relevant level (errors < ∼1 mm) with no significant susceptibility-related distortions, by using high receiver bandwidth, ensuring gradients are properly calibrated, and placing skin fiducials in areas where distortions from patient positioning are minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-701
Number of pages8
JournalMedical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • 7 Tesla MRI
  • 7T presurgical planning
  • MRI geometric distortion
  • frameless neurosurgical navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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