IGC/SMIS unveil low-cost MRI scannerdesigned for developing nations

July 3, 1996

IMiG-MRI features eddy-current-free magnet designA joint venture between Intermagnetics General and Surrey MedicalImaging Systems has rolled out a new 0.15-tesla permanent magnetMRI scanner that developers claim will lower the minimum

IMiG-MRI features eddy-current-free magnet design

A joint venture between Intermagnetics General and Surrey MedicalImaging Systems has rolled out a new 0.15-tesla permanent magnetMRI scanner that developers claim will lower the minimum pricethreshold for whole-body MR ownership while delivering a breakthroughmagnet design.

IGC and SMIS announced the formation June 5 of IMiG-MRI Systems,a joint venture between the two companies that will commercializethe IMiG-MRI scanner. The scanner was jointly designed by thetwo firms over the past 18 months.

IGC, a Latham, NY, company that builds superconducting magnetsfor MRI vendors such as Philips and Hitachi, designed the magnet.SMIS, a Surrey, U.K., firm that supplies spectrometers to AdvancedNMR and Magna-Lab, developed IMiG-MRI's electronics. Paul Domigan,division manager of Field Effects, IGC's permanent magnet division,is managing the joint venture in Acton, MA.

This newest entry to the MRI market is aimed at potential customersoutside highly developed territories in the U.S., Europe, andJapan, according to Domigan.

"The object is to make a really good system available topeople who otherwise could not afford MRI," he said.

Although declining to cite a specific price, Domigan stressedthat the new IMiG-MRI scanner will be introduced as the world'sleast expensive whole-body scanner.

"The price will be unbeatable," he said.

Low-field image quality improvements were attained by fabricatingthe system's permanent magnet from ferrite, a nonconductive ceramicused in stereo speakers and automotive starters, according toSMIS CEO David Taylor, who discussed the new scanner at the InternationalSociety for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine meeting in New YorkCity in May. Because the resulting magnetic field is free fromeddy currents, there was no need to actively shield the gradientcoils, Taylor said.

This means that more of the electrical supply can power the 14mtesla/meter gradient coils. Space otherwise occupied by shieldinghas been made available to give patients more room in the 70 x57-cm elliptical bore, he said.

The unit weighs 8 tons, about one-third less than comparableneodymium iron boron magnets, Domigan said. It takes about twoweeks to install the system in a suite occupying about 35 squaremeters.

For the electronics and software of IMiG-MRI, designers capitalizedon SMIS's experience in developing 3- and 4-tesla research scanners,Taylor said. The scanner performs turbo spin-echo, turbo gradient-echo,and 3-D volume imaging, in addition to spin-echo, inversion recovery,and saturation recovery sequences. An angiographic package isbeing developed with the help of a demonstration site at Reigatein Surrey, according to Taylor.

Manufacturing began May 1, with the first commercial unit earmarkedfor a customer in Russia. The company has lined up about a dozendistributors to sell the system in Asia, South America, India,and Russia, Taylor said. Although the system is designed for internationalmarkets, the company will soon apply for U.S. 510(k) clearance,Domigan said.