Ultrahigh field MRI may allow earlier diagnosis of MS

May 16, 2007

Much of the talk today about the leading edge of clinical MR focuses on 3T scanning and what this new benchmark for high-field imaging can do now and in the future. But with relatively little fanfare, vendors have been installing systems that operate at 7T, exploring new potential and establishing the basis for clinical relevance that may go beyond their use in research.

Much of the talk today about the leading edge of clinical MR focuses on 3T scanning and what this new benchmark for high-field imaging can do now and in the future. But with relatively little fanfare, vendors have been installing systems that operate at 7T, exploring new potential and establishing the basis for clinical relevance that may go beyond their use in research.

As part of this process, investigators from Ohio State University in Columbus and Columbia University in New York City have found that 7T MRI can detect multiple sclerosis lesions better than mainstream MR technologies. This sensitivity, they say, might lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

The researchers analyzed postmortem brain slices from an MS patient using both 3T and 7T MRI. The ultrahigh field scan found numerous MS lesions not detectable at the lower field, according to Dr. Steffen Sammet, a postdoctoral researcher in the OSU radiology department. The greater sensitivity of 7T MRI might make the disease easier to diagnose in its early stages, leading possibly to improved monitoring of neurological deficits, he said.

Scanning at 7T might also provide information about the lesion microstructure to provide a better understanding of MS, underscoring the benefits of this technology, which lately has shown signs of evolving from an experimental methodology into one with clinical ramifications.

"The significant advantage of higher field strength is the gain in signal that can be used in many different ways to increase sensitivity and speed of acquisition or to increase resolution," he said.