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Low Cost, Portable MRI Machine Diagnoses Brain Injuries Without Need for Heavy and Expensive Shielding

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 16 Dec 2021
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A low-cost and shielding-free ultra-low-field brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner has the potential to meet clinical needs at point of care or in low and middle income countries.

The ultra-low-field brain MRI scanner that operates using a standard AC power outlet and is low cost to build has been developed by researchers at the University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong). MRI is intrinsically superior to other imaging modalities, because it is non-invasive, non-ionizing, inherently quantitative and multi-parametric. Despite being a key diagnostic tool in modern healthcare, MRI can be cost-prohibitive given the high installation, maintenance and operation costs of the machinery. As a result, MRI accessibility is low and extremely inhomogeneous around the world. Recently, there has been an impetus to develop low-cost MRI technologies at ultra-low-field strengths. Despite its inherent limitations, the researchers set out to prove that ultra-low-field still holds clear potential in creating a new class of low-cost MRI technologies for accessible healthcare with scanners that are simple to onboard, maintain and operate.

The researchers developed and demonstrated a low cost, ultra-low-field 0.055 T MRI scanner that operates out of a standard AC wall power outlet. Such a scanner can be low cost to manufacture, maintain and operate. For quantity production, the team estimates the hardware material to cost under USD20,000. The MRI scanner is compact, potentially mobile, and acoustically quiet during scanning. Using a permanent 0.055 Tesla Samarium-cobalt magnet and deep learning for cancellation of electromagnetic interference, it requires neither magnetic nor radiofrequency shielding cages. The scanner is compact, mobile, and acoustically quiet during scanning. The researchers implemented four standard clinical neuroimaging protocols (T1- and T2-weighted, fluid-attenuated inversion recovery like, and diffusion-weighted imaging) on this system, and demonstrated preliminary feasibility in diagnosing brain tumor and stroke.

The high cost of procuring, siting/installing, maintaining and operating the current clinical scanners constitutes a major roadblock in MRI accessibility in healthcare. The low-cost, low-power, compact, open, and shielding-free ultra-low-field MRI scanner for brain imaging aims to complement rather than compete with existing high-performance clinical MRI in healthcare. The development of such ultra-low-field MRI technologies will enable patient-centric and site-agnostic MRI scanners to fulfill the unmet clinical needs across various global healthcare sites and has the potential to democratize MRI for low and middle income countries.

Related Links:
University of Hong Kong 

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