Innovations in MR technology
Various advancements provided way for faster scanning, higher resolution images, reduced noise and new applications for better detection
MRI systems have evolved dramatically in the recent years. These advancements include higher field strengths, new techniques, faster gradients, improved coil technology, and more robust sequence protocols. There have been advancements on the software side, enabling faster contrast scans, greatly simplified cardiac imaging workflows, and allowing MR scans of the lungs.
Says Raghavendra VS, Sales Head, GE Healthcare, South Asia, “MR technology has been significantly fast paced in the last four to five years where both hardware and software domains are undergoing rapid changes. From hardware perspectives, most important development happened in terms of coil technology. Conventionally for a long period of time, beyond 32 channel imaging was not available or, I would say, it was quite challenging in terms of signal homogeneity.”
GE Healthcare has recently introduced the pathbreaking AIR Technology coils that overcome both design challenges (having perfectly flexible conductor loops) as well as high channel imaging with superb homogeneity. It has also been able to improve its gradient performance without increasing the power consumption through UHE (Ultra High Efficiency)
and extreme gradients available on its 3T platforms.
According to Singaravelu VB, Head – MRI for Siemens Healthineers, India, “The selection of the field strength of the MRI system is more or less binary these days. It is either an 1.5T or a 3T system. Also on the field strength, the low field strength (i.e <1.5T MRI systems) are on the wane and the market is mainly towards 1.5T and 3T systems.”
The advent of 3T systems is on the rise in recent times, while Siemens Healthineers can also offer a 7T clinical
MR system (MAGNETOM Terra). The gradients can vary from 30/100 to 80/200 depending on the model of the
MRI unit and the clinical applications. The routine imaging requirements of the ‘bread and butter regions of interest’ i.e neuro, spine and MSK can be performed with the 30/100 gradient system with high image quality coupled with accelerated workflow and productivity. On the MRI systems for research, one can offer the 80/200 gradients.
The number of RF receiver channels remains a key criteria in MRI. Multi-channel RF systems offer clear clinical benefits with regard to coverage, image quality, and speed. “Multi-channel RF technology started in the early 1990s with typically 4 RF channels. Nowadays, systems with 8 to 16 independent channels are seen as ‘standard mid-segment systems’, while even 64 independent channels (with coils to utilise the available independent channels) are available for high-end research scanners,” says Singaravelu.
On the applications front, there have been a variety of new applications to make diagnosis faster and more robust. For instance, MR Fingerprinting which facilitates decision making based on digital tissue data. Dedicated MR Fingerprinting acquisition is for rapid and robust quantitative T1 and T2 tissue maps of the brain.
These advancements provided way for faster scanning, higher resolution images, reduced noise and new applications for better detection and characterisation of diseases with significant improvement in patient experience inside the MRI during scanning.
GE Healthcare has a complete portfolio of MRI and hybrid systems that ranges from 60/70 cm 1.5T to wide bore high performance 3T systems. These can used successfully across scan centres to high-end hospital setups to dedicated research systems to simultaneous PET MR, to radiation oncology setups to Intraoperative MRIs and also MR-guidedfocused ultrasound compatibility.
The advent of open MRI for patients who are claustrophobic or overweight, as well as digital MRI systems with advanced clinical outcomes and new imaging protocol workflows are gaining preference. “There is a big focus on ‘patient experience’ and being bigger bore size magnets reduces the claustrophobia which is the one of the biggest issues in lot of patients. It is possible to perform studies with better patient comfort in case of heavy patients etc. The digital platform helps in improving Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) and reducing power consumption at the same time. These changes impact in overall patient experience and also a better outcome of scanning from the clinical perspective,” says Raghavendra.
The current buzz in healthcare industry is from Artificial Intelligence (AI) based platforms across imaging
modalities. It is helping in improved workflow, ‘identification of good and bad’ in acquired data and removing bad parts from the image, analysing acquired images for better detection of pathologies or at least identifying the ‘normal’, so that radiologists can focus more on patients with pathologies, automatic and more accurate post processing of advance imaging, analysis of multi-parametric studies for better outcome and prediction, etc.
In the coming years, experts predict MRI can play a vital role in expanding precision medicine by reducing unwarranted variations. “The technology development in the future will further augment the robust, consistent information basis, quantitative tissue characterisation and individualised therapy guidance. We also look forward to a higher role for AI and deep learning being established in routine imaging, in the years to come,” says Singaravelu.
From coils perspective, experts state that it will be possible to have very high channel coils that will enable very fast high resolution scans. As there is no design challenges, there will be wearable coils like shirts and pants. “AI will significantly change the workflow from patient positioning to post processing and reporting, the speed of scanning will improve significantly that may allow very fast MRI scans. Thus, it will be possible to image ‘impossible for MRI’ areas like lungs and bones,” says Raghavendra.
UNIQUENESS OF MR TECHNOLOGY OF TWO KEY VENDORS
1. AIR technology coils: High channel, superb patient comfort, absolute conformability, endless design possibilities, exquisite signal homogeneity and signal penetration with high acceleration.
2. AIR Recon: A special reconstruction algorithm which corrects for artifacts, improves SNR and help in reducing scan times.
3. ZeroTE Imaging: For minimal sound and unique clinical/research capabilities.
4. MAGiC: Synthetic MRI for both qualitative and quantitative outputs.
5. Upgradability: Fully upgradable systems to highest platforms in that segment.
1. DotGO automated workflow: Addresses consistency and workflow standardisation, with Dot Engines.
2. RESOLVE: Anatomy-true, high resolution DWI with significantly reduced susceptibility even for regions prone to artifacts.
3. Quiet Suite: complete, quiet examinations for brain, spine and MSK exams.
4. Lower down operating costs with Eco-Power: Saves 30% energy in stand-by mode (controls cold head).
5. CAIPRINHA SPACE - Significant 3D acceleration for MSK imaging with High resolution, 3D exam in 10 minutes.