by Gus Iversen
, Editor in Chief | February 12, 2015
At the 2015 Arab Health conference and exhibition in Dubai, Dr. Siegfried Trattnig, founder and chairman of the MR Center of Excellence (MRCE) in Vienna, talked about the future of high-field MR imaging. It is his opinion that 7T is the ideal magnet strength for conducting MR. DOTmed News asked him a few questions about it.
DOTmed News: How did you get started working on higher tesla magnets?
Around 1999, the Department of Radiology of the Medical University of Vienna asked me to work on the 3.0 Tesla MR research scanner for more scientific activities for the Radiology Department and, of course, for acquisition of funding money.
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Based on a project proposal for a Call of the Ministry of Science in Austria I was lucky to get funding for 4 million euros, which signaled the start of our 7 Tesla project in Vienna in 2004. The 7T scanner was in operation by 2008.
DOTmed News: What kind of clinical benefits could be associated with a 7T MR procedure?
The strength of our 7 Tesla site in Vienna is our vicinity to one of the largest hospitals in the world, the General Hospital of Vienna with 2,200 beds. Therefore, our focus was always the clinically oriented research at 7 Tesla with many patient studies. This was finally honored by Siemens, the leading vendor in the Ultra High Field group, with the worldwide reference center for 7 Tesla in 2013.
For patient studies, the main benefits are a higher signal-to-noise ratio, a higher spectral resolution, and higher susceptibility effects at 7T which improves the spatial resolution. That helps a lot in spectroscopy and in metabolic imaging and is the best for functional MR and Susceptibility Weighted Imaging (SWI).
However, to make use of these benefits a lot of method development and protocol optimization as well as a close collaboration with the vendor research group is necessary.
DOTmed News: Are there any risks for patients associated with 7T that are not associated with lower T magnets?
No, if you consider the same MR Safety regulations at 7T what you also consider at 3 and 1.5T you have no increased risks at 7T. After more than 800 patient examinations on our 7T, we have not had any significant adverse events.
DOTmed News: Is it only a matter of time before 7T MR imaging becomes the standard of care?
Yes, this is in particular true for neuro and muskulo-skeletal MR (I estimate within the next 5 years).
DOTmed News: What factors prevent health care today from having commercial 7T MR imaging?
The costs, and also 7T is not yet CE labelled, but Siemens works hard to get this CE certification to bring 7T into the clinical field. We have recently performed basic clinical patient comparison studies between 3T and 7T which strongly support the benefits of the 7T and will be used by the vendor for approval by the FDA.
DOTmed News: What is the most exciting thing about 7T MR imaging?
For me the most exciting part is that 7T allows to perform MR with nuclei other than protons which are normally used, such as 23Na (sodium) and 31P (phosphorus).
Sodium MR, for example, provides insights into the ultrastructure of tissues such as cartilage, tendons in disease such as osteoarthritis and regenerative medicine such as cartilage transplantation and into the distribution of sodium ions in the cells (intra-extracellular) which play an important role in breast cancer imaging. Phosphorus MR spectroscopy allow studies of energy metabolism in vivo for muscles and liver.