Data fusion and 3D visualization for optimized representation of neurovascular relationships in the posterior fossa

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:2141–2151

Reliable 3D visualization of neurovascular relationships in the posterior fossa at the surface of the brainstem is still critical due to artifacts of imaging. To assess neurovascular compression syndromes more reliably, a new approach of 3D visualization based on registration and fusion of high-resolution MR data is presented.

Methods A total of 80 patients received MRI data with 3D-CISS and 3D-TOF at 3.0 Tesla. After registration and subsequent segmentation, the vascular information of the TOF data was fused into the CISS data. Two 3D visualizations were created for each patient, one before and one after fusion, which were verified with the intraoperative situation during microvascular decompression (MVD). The reproduction quality of vessels was evaluated with a rating system.

Results In all cases, the presented approach compensated for typical limitations in the 3D visualization of neurovascular compression such as the partial or complete suppression of larger vessels, suppression of smaller vessels at the CSF margin, and artifacts from heart pulsation. In more than 95% of the cases of hemifacial spasm and glossopharyngeal neuralgia, accurate assessment of the compression was only possible after registration and fusion. In more than 50% of the cases with trigeminal neuralgia, the presented approach was crucial to finding the actually offending vessel.

Conclusions 3D visualization of fused image data allows for a more complete representation of the vessel-nerve situation. The results from this approach are reproducible and the assessment of neurovascular compression is safer. It is a powerful tool for planning MVD.