MRI: New Attractions Prove Magnetic

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MRI designers are thinking out of the box these days, with the innovative fruits of their creation such as open bore and big bore configurations, and higher field strength scanners, including 3Tesla (3T) and above, taking center stage at last week's Radiological Society of North America meeting.

New and upgraded systems showed that improving patient comfort does not compromise image quality, and on the flip side, higher field strengths aren't just for research anymore. 

Both Siemens and Philips featured a large bore and open bore MR system, respectively, emphasizing that patient comfort as well as hard-to-scan patients benefit from the newer designs. GE had some MR highlights of its own, most notably new technology that improves MR imaging speed and quality, as well as a non-invasive alternative to tumor ablation using MRI.

Toshiba showed new enhancements and applications for its Vantage ultra-short-bore 1.5-tesla scanner. Upping the total to four, the company introduced two new gradient packages for the scanner that increases its power and flexibility for users.

Scanners were not all the MR buzz at the show. Developer of MRI audio/video entertainment Resonance Technology introduced a virtual reality system that patients can wear during an MRI scan to improve their scanning experience. And in its first visit to RSNA, Everbrite Lighting Technologies introduced an alternative lighting technology designed specifically for MRI suites.

(Note: companies appear in alphabetical order.)

GE Healthcare launched new high definition MR (HDMR) technology for the GE Signa 1.5T and 3T systems that improves MR imaging speed and quality. It provides better image clarity in cases where patients are difficult to image due to movement, including Parkinson's patients who suffer from uncontrollable patient motion and including children who are not candidates for sedation, GE said.

HDMR enbles simultaneous imaging in multiple channels in increments of 16, according to GE. It features an acquisition architecture with individual receive channels connected to dedicated reconstruction engines. As channels are added (in units of 16, 32, 48, 64 and more), image processing power increases in proportion. The coil elements that detect the signal, the receivers that digitize it and the array processors that perform calculations are scaled together so that simultaneous imaging can be performed without image processing delays.

Built on GE's Excite platform of electronics and data-processing enhancements, HDMR is available on GE's Signa 1.5T and 3.0T MR systems. The company said HDMR will allow users to obtain vast amounts of data in a short amount of time and perform MR studies that would otherwise be compromised. Recent studies indicate 25 to 30 percent of all head MR studies are compromised by patient movement. GE's HDMR technology, Propeller, provides crisp images of the brain despite patient motion.

New targeted studies with HDMR include: extremely high resolution images of the liver with shorter breath holds and better organ coverage; MR echo real-time imaging of the heart with the resolution of MR at the speed of ultrasound, without the need for breath holding or ECG gating; and a new 32-element peripheral vascular coil, providing images of the lower leg and foot vessels.

GE and InSightec, a developer of non-invasive therapy systems, showcased at RSNA the ExAblate 2000MR guided focused ultrasound system. The system integrates focused ultrasound thermal ablation with GE's MR imaging capabilities to provide a non-invasive method for destroying targeted tissue.

The ExAblate 2000 attaches to GE's 1.5T MR scanner to identify tissues in the body, to assist in planning the treatment. During the procedure, delivery focused ultrasound energy is guided and controlled using MR thermal imaging. Thermal imaging feedback allows the physician to monitor and adjust the treatment to ensure that the targeted tumor is fully treated and all other tissues are avoided.

ExAblate 2000 received FDA approval in October for the use of non-invasive treatment of uterine fibroids. Future applications include breast, bone, liver and brain cancers.

"The idea is to take tumors and treat them with an energy source non-invasively," said Lynn Golumbic, marketing manager, InSightec. "The MR system provides very precise visualization of the tumor and all the other organs. It provides also a very clear view of the energy they get to make sure that no critical structures