The smallest patients may require numerous imaging scans, including MRIs of the brain, in order to receive proper care so they can graduate from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). MRI machines are usually situated far away from the NICU, requiring moving fragile dependent patients sometimes across the entire hospital and up and down multiple floors. Aspect Imaging, an Israeli firm, recently received FDA clearance for its Embrace Neonatal MRI, a device that can be placed right inside the NICU to provide brain imaging in a safe and convenient place. We had an opportunity to speak with Uri Rapoport, CEO of Aspect Imaging, about how Embrace can improve neonatal care, how it differs from large conventional MRI machines, and a bit about the company that developed it.
Medgadget: What are the typical challenges in performing MRI scans on neonates?
Uri Rapoport, CEO of Aspect Imaging: Neonates, especially those born prematurely, represent a fragile and vulnerable patient population. Until today, in order to perform an MRI scan for neonates, one needs to take the neonate outside of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to a special MRI room (usually a remote room) and place him/her in a conventional whole body MRI system, thus removing neonates from the safe environment of the NICU which has specific medical devices and trained staff. This scenario can be potentially hazardous for neonates. An additional challenge posed by this scenario is the inability to continuously monitor neonates during the scanning process and offer minimum disturbances to neonates in the safest possible way.
Medgadget: How does the Embrace system address these challenges?
Rapoport: The Embrace MRI is designed to be installed and scan within the NICU, thus the baby does not have to leave the NICU and stays in the safe environment of the NICU. Furthermore, staff who would have to escort the baby (if scanned outside the NICU) are now present within the NICU. The Embrace MRI enables medical device implants to be in close proximity to the system so they are not required to be “MR Conditional” or “MR Safe”, eliminating the need to replace them in preparation for the scan or during the scan. Also, parents can now be present during the scan.
Medgadget: Can the system be used to image other parts of the body in addition to the head?
Rapoport: Aspect Imaging has a roadmap to extend the function of the scanner to image the heart, abdomen and lungs.
Medgadget: How come the device doesn’t need any shielding nor is there even an exclusion zone?
Rapoport: Aspect Imaging’s unique proprietary magnet design channels the magnetic flux through columns within the magnet, so that the 5 Gauss magnetic field is contained within the system; hence there is no need for a magnetic exclusion zone. In addition, the Embrace system is designed as an RF shielded Faraday cage, thus the system can be placed in a standard room. There is no need for a special RF room and unlike standard systems in RF rooms, intubation and other tubes (such as IV) do not have to be removed, extended, replaced or re-connected to the baby, which is usually a lengthy and hazardous process.
Medgadget: How would you compare the image quality of the Embrace system to a traditional 3T scanner?
Rapoport: We have performed phantom (a standard material) images with the Embrace and compared with phantom images in a traditional 3T for standard protocols, and the image quality of the Embrace is excellent. Our measurements show the signal to noise to be exactly what we expected when compared to the 3T. Our systems use efficient solenoid coil. See these comparison images.
Medgadget: MRI scanners dedicated to specific use cases, such as imaging the extremities, are not very common. Do you expect to see more adoption of such systems, and if so where do you see more adoption of this technology?
Rapoport: Yes, accessibility for MRIs is the name of the game. Our systems can be placed almost anywhere. Today, an MRI scan can be very expensive, timely and cumbersome. Our game-changing technology enables MRIs to be significantly more accessible and simple for performing MRI scans. We anticipate that our technology will open up a new approach and a new market for the medical industry. For example, in addition to the Neonatal system, the Aspect WristView is a compact, non-claustrophobic MRI scanner designed to scan the hand and wrist and is strategically placed at the point-of-care; thus, if an MRI of one’s wrist is required, there is no need for a scanner that images far larger body parts just the organ of interest. The WristView can be placed in the Emergency Department of a hospital or a small consulting room in a hand surgery department and does not require a special RF shielded room. Aspect Imaging views MRIs as an imaging modality that will become routine, and does not have to reside in separate rooms of hospital departments, ultimately making this procedure safer and more convenient.
Medgadget: What is the origin of your company and what do you expect it to be working on in the future?
Rapoport: Aspect Imaging was founded by Uri Rapoport, CEO, in 2007. We’re currently planning the complete user environment and working on extending our medical product range. We will release a dedicated stroke MRI system that will be placed in the emergency room of a hospital in 2019. Aspect Imaging also plans to launch new products for the inline process industry.
Here’s Aspect Imaging’s promo video for the Embrace Neonatal MRI:
Product page: Embrace Neonatal MRI…