HACA3: A Unified Approach for Multi-site MR Image Harmonization

The lack of standardization is a prominent issue in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. This often causes undesired contrast variations due to differences in hardware and acquisition parameters. In recent years, MR harmonization using image synthesis with disentanglement has been proposed to compensate for the undesired contrast variations. Despite the success of existing methods, we argue that three major improvements can be made. First, most existing methods are built upon the assumption that multi-contrast MR images of the same subject share the same anatomy. This assumption is questionable since different MR contrasts are specialized to highlight different anatomical features. Second, these methods often require a fixed set of MR contrasts for training (e.g., both Tw-weighted and T2-weighted images must be available), which limits their applicability. Third, existing methods generally are sensitive to imaging artifacts. In this paper, we present a novel approach, Harmonization with Attention-based Contrast, Anatomy, and Artifact Awareness (HACA3), to address these three issues. We first propose an anatomy fusion module that enables HACA3 to respect the anatomical differences between MR contrasts. HACA3 is also robust to imaging artifacts and can be trained and applied to any set of MR contrasts. Experiments show that HACA3 achieves state-of-the-art performance under multiple image quality metrics. We also demonstrate the applicability of HACA3 on downstream tasks with diverse MR datasets acquired from 21 sites with different field strengths, scanner platforms, and acquisition protocols.

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