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Too slow. That’s a common complaint about MRI scans. What if image acquisition time could be shortened a bit? To, say, 4 milliseconds?

In an article published January 21 in PLOS ONE, two Yale researchers report that their experiments suggest it may be feasible to create a high-quality image from a single 4-millisecond echo. In a masterpiece of understatement, the article’s abstract concludes with this sentence:

The prospect that nonlinear gradients can acquire images in a single <10 ms echo makes this a novel and interesting approach to image encoding.

Yeah. Definitely interesting.

The article is extremely technical, so we can’t really describe how they did it. A Yale news release about the research isn’t much help. Here’s an explanation, via the news release, from the article’s senior author, Todd Constable, PhD:

“We endeavored to develop a technique in which each pixel in an image is assigned a unique model signature. The encoding is designed in a manner that ensures any non-unique codes are well separated spatially such that parallel receiver arrays can distinguish these components.”


Dr. Constable is professor of diagnostic radiology, biomedical engineering, and neurosurgery. Co-author Gigi Galiana, PhD, is assistant professor of diagnostic radiology.

Here’s a money quote, literally, from Dr. Constable that shows why this could be such a breakthrough:

Such accelerations in spatial encoding in MRI may shorten study times for patients, increasing comfort and throughput and leading to decreased cost and increased accessibility of MRI.

The authors said such rapid MRI scans could open new applications for the modality in cardiac imaging,  imaging of children and other patients who are unable to hold still for long, and imaging in the emergency department.

A key to the new technique seems to be the use of curved magnetic fields that change over time. Unfortunately, most current MRI systems cannot generate such fields.

The research seems to be in the proof-of-concept stage at the moment, but it definitely bears watching.

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Is better to have more data? Not necessarily, argues a health care tech expert commenting on the imminent arrival of ICD-10. To learn his reasoning, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 12.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Musculoskeletal MR Imaging


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