Major MR vendors see opportunity in simplicity at Berlin conference

May 21, 2007

The big four of high-field MR converged this week in Berlin mouthing a single objective: to make MR simple.

The big four of high-field MR converged this week in Berlin mouthing a single objective: to make MR simple.

From their booths at the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, officials from Siemens and GE said they would like MR to approach the push-button ease of CT. Philips described a method to take the guesswork out of the modality when it comes to certain kinds of cancer. Toshiba emphasized the productivity of its high-end 1.5T system, an integrated and highly flexible body coil that is now commercially available.

None has declared victory, but all claim they are getting close.

GE Healthcare described advanced clinical approaches, including volumetric scanning and robust fat-, water-, and silicon- and iron-only imaging.

"The biggest barrier to increased adoption of MR is simplification," said David Ferguson, general manager of the premium MR business for GE. "The average user still struggles to get consistent and reproducible results."

New parallel imaging and data processing technologies will drive MR toward an ease of use now associated with CT, Ferguson predicted. Toward that end, GE is optimizing radiofrequency channels and its reconstruction engine, as well as bolstering parallel imaging.

Philips looked ahead to quantitating what has traditionally been qualitative - measuring the perfusion of contrast media through and around cancer tumors to help stage them, to identify and monitor their progression, and to determine the effects of therapy.

"Today the only quantitative measure of tumor response is to look at its size," said Hannes Dahnke, Ph.D., senior scientist for medical imaging systems at Philips. "Changes in tumor size can be seen after roughly four weeks of radiotherapy or chemotherapy. In the meantime, physicians are blind to disease progression and do not know whether the therapy is having an effect."

While Philips' experimental approach promises earlier guidance to physicians, its software is still one to three years away, Dahnke warned.

Focusing on the near term, Siemens Medical Solutions proclaimed Tim, its continuously moving patient table, as the catalyst for improved productivity.

First shown at RSNA 2006, Tim is nearing its commercial release date for both 1.5T and 3T models. Siemens expects to launch the technology globally in July as both an upgrade and an option on new systems. Installed scanners outfitted with Tim, both the entry-level "I" class and high-end "T" class, will be upgradable to TimCT, according to Cecile Mohr, Ph.D., global market segment manager for MR at Siemens.

Running in MRA mode, the moving table is meant to simplify the planning and performance of peripheral angiography cases and to improve workflow. In FastView mode, TimCT visualizes the brain to the lumbar spine in one smooth motion.

"You see the table move and the image reconstructed as it goes, just like on a CT," Mohr said.

The underlying Tim technology, with up to 102 coil elements streaming data into 32 radiofrequency channels, makes this possible.

Toshiba has embraced the idea of a body-length coil as the cornerstone for its Vantage Atlas MR system. Its design also offers an advantage in patient comfort, as the coils can be shunted from one end of the table to the other to allow feet-first entry into the bore so the patient's head remains outside the magnet, an advantage when doing lower body imaging, such as peripheral angiography.

"When doing chest imaging or below, it is perfect," said Hans Baartman, project manager MRI for Toshiba Medical Systems Europe.