MRI: Playing the Field (Strength)

Undaunted by the implementation of procedure reimbursement cuts this past January as mandated by the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005, MRI manufacturers have responded with products and innovations to enhance clinical throughput and bolster service lines.

New, high-end 3-Tesla systems are being demonstrated as well as exciting new modality form factors in the technical exhibit halls of McCormick Place in Chicago. Look for enhancements in coil technology to optimize image acquisition and scanner time and be sure to check out new applications for existing scanner lines, which hold the promise to increase clinical certainty and enhance patient diagnosis.

Breast MRI continues to gain market acceptance and vendors will be showcasing dedicated systems, software, and interventional technology designed to further augment the capabilities of this imaging sector.

Rounding out the latest MRI offerings are dedicated extremity scanners, functional MRI (fMRI) image data processing systems, and audio-video entertainment systems for patient use during an MRI procedure.


Apollo Medical Imaging Technology (Booth 6428) is showcasing its software package MIStar with the DCE-MRI enhancement pattern classification function, which offers automated classification of curve patterns, and lesion segmentation analysis using all available time points of the data. It can be used as a screening tool for identification and delineation of potential lesions with abnormal contrast enhancement dynamics.

Aurora Imaging Technology (Booth 6754) is introducing AuroraBiopsy, an automated and integrated MR-guided breast biopsy platform for its Aurora Breast MRI system.

The AuroraBiopsy technology was designed specifically with a woman’s anatomy in mind. The patient table provides physicians with a large access area to the breasts for both medial and lateral approaches and allows accurate targeting and needle placement, coordinated with an integrated scan console and image acquisition software.

Unlike the more commonly used manual methods which allow for human error, with the AuroraBiopsy physicians no longer need to perform manual calculations and then count grid squares to determine needle placement, the company says.
The technology platform also features the capability to target multiple lesions in the same breast or both breasts in a single procedure. The system features breast stabilization paddles for wide access to sample all breasts sizes—small or large—and are inclusive to the Aurora System’s integrated package. The AuroraBiopsy system also includes a needle guidance procedure which accommodates all current core biopsy or vacuum-assisted biopsy devices on the market.

GE Healthcare (Booth 1729) is presenting leading-edge MRI technology highlighted by demonstrations of its Signa HDx 3.0T system as well as a portfolio for breast MRI studies.

Signa HDx 3.0T represents GE’s third-generation 3-Tesla platform. The modality features XVRE (expanded volume volume-reconstruction) engine technology that ensures virtually real-time image generation, according to GE. Clinical applications that utilize acceleration protocols such as ASSET (array spatial sensitivity encoding technique) and GEM (generalized encoding matrix) will see benefit from XVRE.

In addition, GE is featuring a broad range of solutions for MRI breast imaging, including: VIBRANT (volume imaging for breast assessment), for bilateral imaging; BREASE, for breast spectroscopy; and 8-Channel Breast Array, which features better access for intervention and a integration with Confirma’s CADstream breast MRI computer-aided detection (CAD) software.

GE’s VIBRANT (volume imaging for breast assessment) technology enables a non-invasive imaging procedure of both breasts simultaneously, in a single patient visit. The VIBRANT–XV platform further expands the capability to acquire high-resolution images at high speed, providing both enhanced anatomical detail as well as critical kinetic information.

GE’s MR BREASE spectroscopy package can help improve the ability to characterize benign breast lesions by showing differentiated concentrations of choline.

Also enhanced is HD MR technology that also is being highlighted with other additions to the HD family during RSNA 2007.

Hitachi Medical Systems America (Booth 1144) is introducing its Oasis MRI system, a new approach to high-performance MRI featuring a boreless design.

Equipped with proprietary Hitachi technologies, Oasis is the culmination of 20 years of patient friendly MR system engineering, the company says. At 1.2-Tesla field strength, Oasis’ boreless design features a high-strength, whole-body vertical field magnet, and Hitachi’s Zenith RF technology maximizes the available high signal to noise.

The Oasis system is equipped with Higher Order Active Shimming Technology to optimize RF fat saturation and RADAR motion compensating scanning technology for all imaging planes and all coils. The device features fast gradients and an array of pulse sequences to meet the clinical and throughput expectations of high-field MRI–while providing a patient centric imaging environment.

Medrad (Booth 8513) is introducing the 3T Prostate eCoil MR Endorectal Coil (eCoil) compatible with 3-Tesla field strength MR scanners manufactured by Philips Medical Systems and Siemens Medical Solutions.

The 3T Prostate eCoil conforms to the size and shape of the prostate for consistent contact between the gland and the signal-amplifying elements of the coil. The result is small field-of-view (FOV) and high spatial resolution, sensitivity, and specificity that yield clearer pictures of the prostate. These pictures provide information needed by clinicians to diagnose and stage cancer, and also to plan and deliver targeted treatment, such as radiation therapy, according to the company.

Medrad introduced the 3T prostate eCoil for GE Healthcare MRI systems in 2006.

According to the firm, high-resolution prostate MR imaging is important to many people, especially to the hundreds of thousands of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. By developing the eCoil for all three major scanner platforms, patient access is increased for prostate MR, an emerging new imaging procedure for early diagnosing and staging of prostate cancer.

Physicians in The Netherlands who have used the eCoil report an enormous gain in spatial resolution such that accurate detection of extracapsular tumor growth, in the millimeter range, is possible, Medrad says.

The Prostate eCoil also is available for 1.5-Tesla magnet strength environments and is one of the firm’s Leading Image MR Coil products.

ONI Medical Systems (Booth 5104) is demonstrating the capabilities of its latest innovation, the MSK Extreme with Smart Fat.

The MSK Extreme is a high-field, dedicated-extremity scanner designed for enhanced patient comfort as well as the delivery of high-quality diagnostic images. With the addition of Smart Fat, the MSK Extreme can better suppress signal from fat–resulting in crisp, artifact-free, Fast Spin Echo images, which may enhance patient diagnoses, according to ONI.

Philips Medical Systems (Booths 4048, 4165, and 4129) is demonstrating its Achieva 1.5T, Achieva 3.0T X-series, and Achieva XR cylindrical MR scanners; its  Panorama high-field open scanners; and solutions to assist customers in capturing clinical market share.

RSNA attendees looking to simplify their workflow in MRI will be pleased to learn that Philips has expanded its SmartExam application to encompass new anatomy. SmartExam is a Philips-exclusive product that enables automated MR planning, scanning and processing with a single mouse-click.

Attendees interested in new advances for faster imaging will want to check out the new 1.5-Tesla system platform with high-channel count. The company’s 16-channel Achieva 1.5T, in concert with optimal SENSE (sensitivity encoding for fast MRI) performance and dedicated coils, enables better coverage, higher resolution, fewer artifacts, and faster scan times, the company says.

Philips also has several offerings to help build MRI service lines. Among the highlights are:

  • The Achieva XR, a MRI scanner that is installed at 1.5T, but can be “ramped up” to 3T without replacing the magnet.
  • Philips’ system utilization service, which provides detailed analysis of scanner usage and delivers insight that will help users scan more efficiently and determine target areas for growth.
  • Solutions for new and emerging applications that will provide the means users need to capture market share in these areas.
  • The Panorama HFO MRI system, which provides customers with competitive differentiation through its combination of open design for patient comfort and high field strength for speed and image quality. The modality’s capability to scan obese and claustrophobic patients enables facilities to service this customer base, according to Philips.
  • The Achieva 3.0T X-series, which enables users to offer differentiating high field strength imaging while expanding the clinical applications they offer into emerging areas such as functional MRI (fMRI) and spectroscopy.

Resonance Technology (Booth 2951) is introducing a range of features to its FuncLAB automated functional MRI (fMRI) image data processing system and its CinemaVision audio-video entertainment systems for MRI devices.

New for CinemaVision this year is a more powerful audio phone integrated into its lightweight audio-video headset. This unit also boasts enhanced noise cancellation technology to enable the technologist to hear the patient distinctly, even during scans.

The CinemaVision headset delivers a resolution of 240,000 pixels for each of the two displays to provide high-quality, realistic video. It provides digital stereo sound with passive noise-attenuation technology and an intercom for ongoing communication between patient and technologist. The entire headset also fits within the MRI coil.

CinemaVision also enables anxious patients to see the face of the technologist and communicate with him or her during the scanning process. Stereo sound levels may be adjusted by patients directly from within the magnet. In addition, technologists can select their own virtual entertainment during the scanning process, independent of a patient’s choice.

As part of its fMRI technology, Resonance Technology is debuting a 1,000 Hz MRI eye tracker camera, complete with proprietary data analysis software to take full advantage of the enhanced technology. Used with the firm’s VisuaStim audio-visual stimulation module, it provides a complete fMRI presentation and patient response system for both research and clinical applications.

The company also is unveiling the next-generation of its funcLAB turnkey fMRI solution. The offering combines complete functional imaging task presentation featuring high-quality 3D graphics and sound capabilities with fully automated data processing, eliminating complex, time-intensive manual data analysis.

The funcLAB product now integrates the latest Quad-Core processor technique in its line of hardware/software products, which allows it to harness the power of four combined CPUs in a small-footprint system to analyze fMRI data. Resonance Technology’s server line of products provides up to 16 terabytes (TB) of RAID-10, fault-tolerant DICOM data storage for multi-modality and multi-user operations integrated into clinical workflow and PACS archiving.

The fMRI data processor server attaches to the department network. Functional and anatomical images are automatically sent in DICOM format from the MRI device to the processor. After identifying and associating the data to a specific study and sensory task, the system processes the information. The resulting brain maps of anatomy fused with functional results are available onsite and via the web through a browser-based interface.

Siemens Medical Solutions (Booths 8313, 7713, and 8320) is debuting its Magnetom Essenza 1.5-Tesla high-field MRI system, which combines excellent system performance with a patient-friendly design at one of the lowest total costs of ownership in the industry today, according to the developer.
The Magnetom Essenza is designed to provide an optimal operating cost, which could save facilities as much as 50 percent on their MR energy bill compared with older systems, Siemens said. It features an advanced magnet design to ensure maximum product uptime with a state-of-the-art zero helium boil-off magnet and is targeted for the small hospital and imaging center market.
The Magnetom Essenza supports a complete range of clinical applications, including neurology, orthopedics, body imaging, angiography, cardiology, breast imaging, oncology and pediatric imaging. The device has up to 25 seamlessly integrated coil elements and eight independent radiofrequency channels, V-engine gradients (30 mT/m), and incorporates Siemens’ Tim (Total imaging matrix) technology that can help boost patient throughput, according to the company.
The system also features Siemens’ newest coil innovation, the IsoCenter Matrix coil, which is placed in the isocenter of the magnet, meaning that it is always in position and ready to scan. The IsoCenter Matrix coil also can be used in flexible combinations with anterior coils and works as a 140 cm coil in multi-step exams to avoid repositioning, Siemens says.
The magnet has simple siting requirements, is lightweight (approximately 3.5 tons), and has an ultra-short bore-length of 145 cm. The Essenza is the fourth 1.5-T system to join Siemens’ product portfolio, which also includes the Magnetom Avanto, the Magnetom Espree and the Magnetom Symphony.

Toshiba America Medical Systems (Booth 7130) is reinforcing the company’s commitment to the MR marketplace, previewing its advanced 3-Tesla MR system as a works in progress as well as demonstrating system enhancements to its Vantage Atlas 1.5T MRI systems.

At the core of Toshiba’s new 3T product is a new magnet design that combines a short bore with high homogeneity. In addition, the new system features Toshiba’s patented Pianissimo technology, which substantially reduces noise, solving one of the primary concerns facing 3T imaging today. 

The company also is demonstrating enhancements to its Vantage Atlas 1.5T MRI system–a short-bore, multi-channel system with a large clinical field-of-view. The Atlas design is a 128-element system with an integrated coil concept that allows clinicians to perform multiple exams without repositioning coils, resulting in more comfortable exams and enhanced workflow. 

With a large clinical field of view (FOV) of 55 x 55 x 50cm, the Atlas meets the medical marketplace’s need for an MRI system that delivers high-resolution images across the entire body.

All Toshiba’s Vantage systems include software for contrast-free MR angiography (MRA) procedures with three proprietary Toshiba techniques: fresh blood imaging (FBI), contrast-free improved angiography (CIA), and Time-SLIP. Toshiba noted that contrast-free imaging is particularly important because gadolinium, the common contrast agent used for MRI and MRA exams, has been directly linked to nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF), a sometimes fatal disease that occurs in patients with renal insufficiency.