In 1882 Nikola Tesla did a fundamental discovery in physics: the Rotating Magnetic Field. In 1971 Paul C. Lauterbur followed up with his Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, invention. After many years of research on July 3, 1977 in five hours the first MR image of a human body was made. Three years later the first commercial MRI scanner was introduced by FONAR Corporation.
This brief history of an extraordinary invention shows the development of a very important technique globally used in healthcare and almost every hospital these days. It has only been at the start of February 2017 that one of the inventors of MRI, Peter Mansfield, passed away. Thanks to him and Paul Lauterbur we are able to make use of an incredible invention. In 2003 Peter even got awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research that led to the development of MRI. Even though the personal reasons for having an MRI scan are unpleasant, it is a technology that can help out many people. It is one of the most advanced imaging solutions available, which you would probably not realize in the first place.
MR imaging is excellent at showing details in soft tissue; in particular bone marrow, cartilage, muscles, tendons and adipose tissue. Next to the unique imaging features, MRI offers an additional benefit when undergoing an MRI examination. In contrast with x-ray imaging, MR imaging lacks radiation. There are assumptions that for this reason MR imaging is less hazardous for your health and therefore MRI distinguishes from other imaging modalities. Besides this MRI scanners are even able to produce 3D images of the inside body.
People who have ever experienced an MRI scan will recognize the downsides. It does take a long time, comes with a lot of noise and the space is very tight and uncomfortable. However, it is a privilege the MRI technique is available. An MRI scan can help to diagnose a wide range of diseases such as brain tumors and injury, dementia, MS and stroke. It can also detect blockages and aneurysms. When the image is of high quality, detailed and without artifacts the next step can be taken to perform a proper treatment. Something that was inconceivable at this level fifty years ago.
Most patients are not familiar with the incredible amount of technology required to get quick and high quality MR images. The deeper you dive into the technology used for a MRI scan, the more one realizes how impressive it is. Besides the room where patients are scanned (the scanner room), there is also an equipment room full of electronics. These electronics include power supplies, amplifiers, reconstruction computers, heat exchangers and system controllers. All this equipment, which cannot be missed for MRI, has to function in harmony to create a proper image of the ‘inner you’; the ‘black & white selfie’.
The complex technology of the MRI consists of a heart which easily said is a strong magnet, a rapidly switching (gradient) coil, a radio transmitter, a receiver and a lot of electronics which coordinate the operation. In the beginning the usable starting point for MR imaging used to have field strength of less than 0.1T. Nowadays the strength has risen to 3.0T for clinical purposes and 11.7T for research activities. 3T already is incredible field strength, taking into account that it is 100.000 times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field. This high field strength is necessary to give the MR image more detail (greater signal-to-noise ratio), comparable with the Megapixels of a digital camera; the higher the more details the picture has.
From the start MRI has constantly been in development in order to improve image quality and the set of scans for different purposes. Images of higher quality are very helpful to improve the accuracy of diagnosis and for the improvement to treat various complications. These days much research is still done to broaden the use of Magnetic Resonance. 7T MRI scanners are the most interesting systems to do research at because it recognizes more detail and the scan times are shorter. In the future 7T scanners might become the new clinical standard. However, the challenge is to bring down the costs for these systems. Multiple initiatives are taking effort at this moment to built lower cost MR systems with state-of-the-art technology.
Prodrive Technologies is proud to be a part of improving the healthcare market by providing a sophisticated portfolio of gradient amplifiers and RF amplifiers. These amplifiers consist of unique features comprising patented technology to improve MR image quality and provide a more accurate diagnosis. To get more insight into the future of Magnetic Resonance Imaging view this page