Researchers Tout Faster MRI Protocol

May 9, 2012

Scientists at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., say they have discovered a protocol that could lead to a hundred-fold increase in MRI speed.

Scientists at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., say they have discovered a protocol that could lead to a hundred-fold increase in MRI speed.

"Our ultimate goal is to image small children in seconds rather than minutes,” said Stanley Fricke, MD, who led the research. “In this way children will not need to be anesthetized prior to imaging."

Increasing the speed and magnitude of MR gradients has long been a goal of the imaging community, Fricke noted. However, nerve stimulation and twitching - caused by the gradient pulse sequences, which form the MR images - has limited that speed. The FDA and European regulators have placed limits on the gradient strength and speed.

However, researchers said these limits are based on clinical studies that used “relatively slow gradients.” In their new study, published in Medical Physics journal, scientists used pulse sequences with rise times 100 times faster than conventional MRI to show that nerve stimulation could be eliminated by employing ultra-fast magnetic gradients.

"The old speed limits may need to be reviewed in light of this new data,” said Fricke. “The new technology could lead to the adoption of MRI as a first-line method of assessing coronary artery disease, improve high-resolution brain mapping, and implement low-cost dental MRI as a potential non-ionizing-radiation alternative to X-rays."

Fricke characterized the findings as “breaking the sound barrier,” or the MRI speed barrier, because the higher MR frequency is beyond human hearing ability.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institution. The technology was produced with instrumentation created by Weinberg Medical Physics LLC, an R&D lab in Bethesda, Maryland. Last week, the company was granted a patent for non-stimulating magnetic gradient generation methods, according to the company.