MRI plays the field with greater strength & speed
The latest MRI systems are designed with speed and workflow in mind, with coils and structuring designs that can do more with less. New coils enable the systems to scan large portions of the body with just a single coil, and to accomplish this with ever more diverse body shapes and sizes. Thus, these types of improvements are geared towards clinicians and patients. Clinicians get more done, more quickly, and patients don't have to spend as much time in scanners.

And for sure, 3.0 Tesla systems have grown in prominence. For facilities still not sure if they want to invest in 3T, such as one system from Philips introduced as a stepping stone in that direction with options to easily upgrade when the time is right.

And thanks to advances in magnets some systems are able to produce vivid images even with contrast agents, as is the case with Toshiba's systems.

GE Healthcare introduced a non-invasive magnetic resonance (MR) imaging method to assess articular cartilage integrity called CartiGram. It is an optional application available the company's Signa HDx platform, and allows clinicians to non-invasively visualize collagen fiber degradation.

GE also highlighted its Signa High-Density (HD) Head-Neck-Spine MR imaging array which enables users to scan multiple neurology patients or perform series of exams on a single patient without changing coils, shortening procedure time without compromising image quality. The system uses radio frequency technology and an advanced patient- and user-friendly design that places the highest density of coil elements in the imaging field of view to maximize image quality. With 29 elements and 16 channel outputs, the array covers the patient's upper entire body with a single coil, providing high-density signals that directly contribute to optimal and uniform image quality in brain, neck and spine images.  The phased array technology provides higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and capability for parallel imaging, which speeds up scanning.

Hitachi Medical Systems debuted a work-in-progress open MRI scanner called Oasis. The open scanner system has much in common with the company's 1.5 T (Tesla) Echelon system, including the platform and certain coils. The system ó which is pending FDA clearance ó also features a new magnet Hitachi has developed to update and improve its current open MRI systems. Otherwise, the company highlighted its recent Ascent 5.0 software upgrade program for the Altaire and AIRIS II systems. This latest version of Ascent, the operating system software for Altaire, AIRIS II, and AIRIS Elite Open MR systems, will provide benefits in the areas of image quality, workflow and clinical capability. In its standard configuration, Ascent 5.0 provides many features for both Altaire and AIRIS II, including sequence enhancements, like Shared Echo FSE for simultaneous collection of high-quality PD and T2-weighted images, and Gated IR/FIR, which enables free breathing abdominal T1-weighted imaging. Additional new options for Altaire users include Cardio≠Suite, a powerful cardiac imaging package, as well as RAPID parallel imaging software and receiver coils. Ascent 5.0 also offers all platforms the Workflow Plus optional package, a suite of interoperability features enabling conformance with IHE's Scheduled Workflow integration profile.

Philips Achieva XRPhilips Medical Systems demonstrated its new Achieva 3.0T X-series MR system which features a new X-series technology encompassing magnet, gradient and RF advancements. The system includes new software enabling applications such as MSK, multi-vein, as well as a motion correction software option that is pending FDA clearance. Philips Achieva 3.0T X-series also features SmartExam, a tool for one-click planning, scanning and processing that can be reproduced consistently time after time regardless of system operator. The SmartExam application itself has been upgraded, and can now be extended to applications such as the brain, knee, and eventually in 2007 also the spine.

At the show, Philips also announced a new system called the Achieva XR, a 1.5T system that has the same basic look and dimensions as the 3T system. Basically, once available, it will function as a baby step for those not yet ready to invest in 3T. The XR system will allow customers to easily upgrade to 3T when the time comes by replacing the RF coil, Philips said. 

Siemens MAGNETOM AvantoSiemens Medical Solutions introduced Tim (Total imaging matrix) enabled T-class systems for the MAGNETOM Trio, MAGNETOM Avanto and MAGNETOM Espree. This technology allows physicians to acquire one complete planning scan, or peripheral angiography, in a single, continuous move.

The new T-class generation Tim systems enable shorter order-to-report turnaround time and support workflow throughout the entire radiology process, streamlining ordering, planning, processing and distribution, Siemens said. Tim Workflow Suite enables more efficient planning and automatic real-time composing, filtering and processing. T-class also helps improve workflow beyond the scanner with the new syngo Chorus MR, which integrates the MRI scanner into RIS and PACS, from data retrieval through distribution and billing. syngo Chorus MR also provides protocols planning and standardization of protocols across multiple scanners directly from the RIS.

Toshiba EXCELART VantageToshiba America Medical Systems announced FDA clearance for its new EXCELART Vantage powered by Atlas 1.5T MRI system. It features a complete redesign, and with a new 128-element configuration can deliver high-resolution images across the entire body with faster imaging times. The new Atlas system design is an integrated coil concept that will allow clinicians to perform multiple exams without repositioning the patient. This will mean more comfortable exam experiences and will result in enhanced workflow and technologist productivity. Also, the system's optional 205-cm acquisition range allows for feet-first imaging for the entire body, excluding the neck and head.

As for systems in the pipeline, Toshiba showcased its EXCELART Vantage Plus powered by Atlas ó a works-in-progress 1.5T large bore system. The Vantage Atlas Plus' elliptical large bore design has been developed to grant patients more room during an MRI exam. The system also provides an expanded field-of-view (FOV) at up to 55cm.

Also on display was another work-in-progress system, a Vantage 3T MR based on the EXCELART Vantage platform. The new 3T system includes new magnet design and short-bore combination that deliver high homogeneity.

MRI Peripherals
Bracco showcased its full line of contrast imaging media, including: MultiHance ó for MR scanning of adults to visualize lesions with abnormal blood brain barrier or abnormal vascularity of the brain, spine and surrounding tissue; and ProHance, an MRI contrast agent for imaging the brain, spine and surrounding tissues.

E-Z-EM introduced the EmpowerMR injector system, which is the company's first product for the MR imaging market. Based on the company's Empower family of CT injector systems, the work-in-progress EmpowerMR employs several innovative features designed to cope with the problem of electrical interference in the magnetic field of the MR scanner. The EmpowerMR employs a hydraulic control system instead of the shielded electrical control components used by most other MR injector systems.

ETS-Lindgren announced a new shielded door with an automatic opening and closing system for MRI applications. The AS-II offers a pneumatically operated, bladderless and gasketless design and provides an essentially maintenance-free RF sealing system, the company said.

Everbrite Lighting Technologies (ELT) highlighted a new product within its MedLux line known as the MedLux XLS Dimmer. The dimmer uses a technique called pulse width modulation through which the LEDs are turned on and off so quickly that the eye cannot perceive the change. There is no delay which essentially translates into instant lighting.

MEDRAD displayed its Certo MR Wireless Network which gives patient care professionals the flexibility and freedom to use MEDRAD patient care products anywhere within the range of the network without interfering with the MR imaging signal, the company said.

Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles introduced the first mobile 3.0T MRI trailer in collaboration with Philips Medical Systems. This newly designed Oshkosh SV trailer houses the Mobile 3.0T technology and is composed of the new Philips Achieva 3.0 X-series.

Patient Comfort Systems MRI pads utilizing TEMPUR material decrease patient motion during MRI scans, resulting in a significant reduction in both repeat sequences and patient call-backs, according to a recent study presented at RSNA. Repeat sequences decreased by 56 percent and patient call-backs dropped by 50 percent when patients were scanned using new Patient Comfort Systems pressure management pads compared to MRI manufacturer's traditional pads.