An exploration of diffusion tensor eigenvector variability within human calf muscles
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PURPOSE: To explore the effect of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) acquisition parameters on principal and minor eigenvector stability within human lower leg skeletal muscles. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Lower leg muscles were evaluated in seven healthy subjects at 3T using an 8-channel transmit/receive coil. Diffusion-encoding was performed with nine signal averages (NSA) using 6, 15, and 25 directions (NDD). Individual DTI volumes were combined into aggregate volumes of 3, 2, and 1 NSA according to number of directions. Tensor eigenvalues (λ1 , λ2 , λ3 ), eigenvectors (ε1 , ε2 , ε3 ), and DTI metrics (fractional anisotropy [FA] and mean diffusivity [MD]) were calculated for each combination of NSA and NDD. Spatial maps of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), λ3 :λ2 ratio, and zenith angle were also calculated for region of interest (ROI) analysis of vector orientation consistency. RESULTS: ε1 variability was only moderately related to ε2 variability (r = 0.4045). Variation of ε1 was affected by NDD, not NSA (P < 0.0002), while variation of ε2 was affected by NSA, not NDD (P < 0.0003). In terms of tensor shape, vector variability was weakly related to FA (ε1 :r = -0.1854, ε2 : ns), but had a stronger relation to the λ3 :λ2 ratio (ε1 :r = -0.5221, ε2 :r = -0.1771). Vector variability was also weakly related to SNR (ε1 :r = -0.2873, ε2 :r = -0.3483). Zenith angle was found to be strongly associated with variability of ε1 (r = 0.8048) but only weakly with that of ε2 (r = 0.2135). CONCLUSION: The second eigenvector (ε2 ) displayed higher directional variability relative to ε1 , and was only marginally affected by experimental conditions that impacted ε1 variability.
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