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Low Field 0.55T MRI Images Offer Similar Diagnostic Utility as 1.5T for Abdominal Scans

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 15 Feb 2024
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Image: 0.55T has been found sufficient to obtain a diagnostic-quality image from an MRI (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: 0.55T has been found sufficient to obtain a diagnostic-quality image from an MRI (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a vital tool in medical diagnostics, but the high cost of whole-body clinical systems is a significant barrier. Recent advancements in MRI technology, including hardware, software, and coil technology, have rekindled interest in MRI systems having lower main magnetic field strengths compared to modern, higher-field commercial scanners. Now, a new study has demonstrated that MRI scanners with lower field strengths, specifically 0.55T, can produce high-quality abdominal images without losing diagnostic accuracy. However, these lower field strength systems may require longer imaging times and additional sequence optimization compared to higher field strength systems.

In the study, researchers from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI, USA) conducted a comparative analysis of abdominal MRI images from a 0.55T scanner against those from conventional 1.5T/3T units. The study involved 67 participants, with 15 healthy individuals and 52 patients undergoing MRIs for existing medical issues. Each participant underwent a scan using the 0.55T machine. Additionally, the healthy group also had a second scan on a 1.5T unit for further image comparison. Of the 52 patients, 28 had pre-existing abdominal MRI images taken with either 1.5T or 3T scanners, which were used for a quality comparison across different magnetic field strengths.

Two board-certified radiologists reviewed all images for their diagnostic and clinical value. For the healthy cohort, both radiologists successfully used the 0.55T images for assessment. In the patient group, while one radiologist could diagnose all 52 patients using the 0.55T images, the other required higher resolution scans for 6 of these patients. Notably, the researchers observed longer scan durations for abdominal imaging at 0.55T and acknowledged the need for optimizing certain sequences to minimize artifacts.

The study's findings suggest that 0.55T MRI scanners can be sufficient for acquiring diagnostic-quality images in most cases. The researchers advocate for further research to validate these findings, as the efficacy of 0.55T images could broaden the application of lower field MRI units, enhancing patient access to imaging in regions where higher field strength scanners are not readily available.

“Despite challenges such as lower SNR, reduced spatial resolution, and longer scan times, commercially available 0.55T systems may be useful for many common abdominal MRI indications that do not require high-resolution imaging,” the researchers stated.

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