Real-time motion monitoring of lung tumors with low-field magnetic resonance imaging-guided linear accelerators (MR-Linacs) is currently limited to sagittal 2D cine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To provide input data for improved intrafractional and interfractional adaptive radiotherapy, the 4D anatomy has to be inferred from data with lower dimensionality. The purpose of this study was to experimentally validate a previously proposed propagation method that provides continuous time-resolved estimated 4D-MRI based on orthogonal cine MRI for a low-field MR-Linac. Ex vivo porcine lungs were injected with artificial nodules and mounted in a dedicated phantom that allows for the simulation of periodic and reproducible breathing motion. The phantom was scanned with a research version of a commercial 0.35T MR-Linac. Respiratory-correlated 4D-MRI were reconstructed and served as ground truth images. Series of interleaved orthogonal slices in sagittal and coronal orientation, intersecting the injected targets, were acquired at 7.3Hz. Estimated 4D-MRI at 3.65Hz were created in post-processing using the propagation method and compared to the ground truth 4D-MRI. Eight datasets at different breathing frequencies and motion amplitudes were acquired for three porcine lungs. The overall median (95th percentile) deviation between ground truth and estimated deformation vector fields was 2.3mm (5.7mm), corresponding to 0.7 (1.6) times the in-plane imaging resolution (3.5×3.5mm). Median (95th percentile) estimated nodule position errors were 1.5mm (3.8mm) for nodules intersected by orthogonal slices and 2.1mm (7.1mm) for nodules located more than 2cm away from either of the orthogonal slices. The estimation error depended on the breathing phase, the motion amplitude and the location of the estimated position with respect to the orthogonal slices. By using the propagation method, the 4D motion within the porcine lung phantom could be accurately and robustly estimated. The method could provide valuable information for treatment planning, real-time motion monitoring, treatment adaptation, and post-treatment evaluation of MR-guided radiotherapy treatments.
© 2020 Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.