PURPOSE: To propose an MRI quality assurance procedure that can be used for routine controls and multi-centre comparison of different MR-scanners for quantitative diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: 44 MR-scanners with different field strengths (1 T, 1.5 T and 3 T) were included in the study. DWI acquisitions (b-value range 0-1000 s/mm2), with three different orthogonal diffusion gradient directions, were performed for each MR-scanner. All DWI acquisitions were performed by using a standard spherical plastic doped water phantom. Phantom solution ADC value and its dependence with temperature was measured using a DOSY sequence on a 600 MHz NMR spectrometer. Apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) along each diffusion gradient direction and mean ADC were estimated, both at magnet isocentre and in six different position 50 mm away from isocentre, along positive and negative AP, RL and HF directions.
RESULTS: A good agreement was found between the nominal and measured mean ADC at isocentre: more than 90% of mean ADC measurements were within 5% from the nominal value, and the highest deviation was 11.3%. Away from isocentre, the effect of the diffusion gradient direction on ADC estimation was larger than 5% in 47% of included scanners and a spatial non uniformity larger than 5% was reported in 13% of centres.
CONCLUSION: ADC accuracy and spatial uniformity can vary appreciably depending on MR scanner model, sequence implementation (i.e. gradient diffusion direction) and hardware characteristics. The DWI quality assurance protocol proposed in this study can be employed in order to assess the accuracy and spatial uniformity of estimated ADC values, in single- as well as multi-centre studies.