UK scientists compress MR images, greatly reduce breath holding
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UK scientists compress MR images, greatly reduce breath holding

por Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | August 04, 2015
CT MRI X-Ray
Scientists in the UK have found a way to perform MRI scans quickly on patients who have difficulty holding their breath.

By reprogramming the scanner to alter the way the image is acquired, the Medical Research Council scientists were able to cut the amount of time patients with type 2 diabetes were required to hold their breath during a liver scan from 18 seconds to four seconds, while retaining image quality. The study was recently published in the journal Radiology.

Dr. Kieren Hollingsworth, a lecturer in magnetic resonance physics at Newcastle University and senior author of the study, compared the method, which mathematically compresses the MRI images, to how photographs are taken with a digital camera. When taking a photograph, the camera collects information from millions of pixels, but then compresses that into a smaller JPEG file.

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“We can show that MR images, just like photos, are compressible, and because of that we can work out which parts of the raw data we could not collect, and yet recover an image with the same image quality and content,” Hollingsworth told HCB News. “Therefore, we reprogram the MRI scanner to acquire the data in this way. In the case of liver, we omit three quarters of the raw data, which would be conventionally required.

The acquisition method can also accelerate detailed 3-D imaging of skeletal muscle and joints, such as the knee and elbow, which can take four to six minutes, during which time the patient has to be completely still, Hollingsworth said. The scientists have also reduced the acquisition time of 3-D imaging of skeletal muscle for genetic diseases, particularly in the leg, from 4 1/2 minutes to 55 seconds.

“This is important because many of the patients are children, with conditions such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and find it very difficult to keep still without sedation, and yet the quality of the scan requires total stillness throughout,” Hollingsworth said. “It's particularly pertinent as there are now clinical trials in prospect which have MRI endpoints, and the ability to scan young children well without sedation is critical to those trials.”

While the amount of computer power needed to reconstruct the images is much greater than standard MRI, Hollingsworth said the hardware cost, which could run around $3,000, pales in comparison to the recurrent hourly cost of MRI scans, which can range from $400 to 800 per hour.

The researchers are testing the technology on a wider range of anatomy and conditions, including joint and cardiac imaging, and they are seeking funding to perform multi-center clinical trials on more patients, and to make sure that other clinicians can also use the method. Hollingsworth said the researchers are also looking to integrate the technology into scanner hardware, so the image compression can be done seamlessly.

Hollingsworth said the technology could work for CT scans, though not in the same way.

“In principle, there could indeed be benefits for CT scans, though the main benefit in CT would be a reduced radiation dose rather than the acquisition time,” Hollingsworth said.

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