Mayo’s New MRI is Compact, Comfortable and Powerful

Mayo Clinic has unveiled a new compact 3T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner designed specifically to handle scans of the head and small extremities—such as wrists, feet and ankles—that represent around 45 percent of the clinical MRI volume at the clinic.

“A lot of teamwork went into the development, construction and fine-tuning of the machine, and even more will go into determining the full scope of what physicians are able to do with the machine to improve patient outcomes and experiences,” said Matt Bernstein, a medical physicist in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Radiology, to the clinic’s Discovery’s Edge magazine. “The smaller design actually permits increased scanner performance, because both the electrical power requirements and physiological limitations imposed by a whole-body MRI scanner are greatly reduced.”

The unit’s compact size is expected to have several advantages over conventional, whole-body MRI systems. Its new prototype magnet is approximately one-third the size of a conventional system, making it easier to install in often space-constrained hospitals. And the magnet requires only 12 liters of liquid helium to operate, compared to some 2,000 in traditional machines, thus removing the need for an installed vent stack to counter any potential helium leak.

The reduced size also helps lower the electrical power usage and increases the scan speed dramatically, according to the clinic. Initial investigation and evaluation, the clinic says, has produced high-quality images for a variety of advanced applications, including diffusion MRI, functional MRI and MR Elastography.

Other improvements involve patient comfort. In a conventional, whole-body scanner, the patient must lie on a table that goes into the magnet, a position that can be uncomfortable for patients, particularly those with claustrophobia. Patients using the new machine will not have to be fully immersed. Arms and torso, for example, will remain outside of the machine during a head scan.

The investigational and research device, developed in collaboration with General Electric’s (GE) Global Research Center, was installed earlier this year in Charlton North Building, part of Mayo Clinic’s downtown campus in Rochester MN.