Modern clinical MRIs usually have magnetic field strengths of 1.5 or 3.0 Tesla. These are pretty powerful magnets and it’s the reason that these devices are very expensive. While such strengths have been standard for a long time, the internal hardware and software beyond the magnets have been improving steadily.
Now, researchers affiliated with the National Institutes of Health have worked with a team at Siemens to see what a modern MRI, operating at a lower strength, is capable of. It may make sense to build weaker MRIs in order to make them more affordable for more facilities, as well as expand access to intraoperative MRI imaging for surgeries.
The researchers used a Siemens MAGNETOM Aera, normally a 1.5T scanner, which was toned down to .55T. Otherwise the system was taking advantage of all the internal optimizations that are used to increase the fidelity of imaging.
The team employed healthy volunteers and people with lung diseases, to assess the difference in the scanner’s output compared with the same 1.5T scanner.
The team found that they were able to detect lung cysts and the surrounding anatomy in those with lymphangioleiomyomatosis. Interestingly, inhaled oxygen worked quite effectively, and much better than with more powerful MRIs, as an easy to use contrast agent. Perhaps low power MRI may be an excellent imaging modality for lung conditions.
In addition, the scanner was successfully used in a cath lab, pointing to the viability of rolling out more MRIs to help guide catheterizations. “We can start thinking about doing more complex procedures under MRI-guidance now that we can combine standard devices with good quality cardiac imaging,” said Adrienne Campbell-Washburn, Ph.D., the study’s first author.
Product page: MAGNETOM Aera