Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital are touting a low-cost, portable “head only” MRI scanner that could be used in multiple settings.
As opposed to standard costly, immobile MRI scanners that require special infrastructure, the MGH researchers developed a low-cost, compact, portable and low-power scanner that could be mounted in an ambulance, wheeled into a patient’s room or put in small clinics or doctors’ offices around the world, according to a news release.
The researchers, who published their study in Nature Biomedical Engineering, designed the scanner to be plugged into standard outlets and emit less noise than traditional MRI scanners. The device’s magnet is the size of about a laundry basket, with the total weight (including magnet, coils, amplifiers, console and cart) reaching about 500 pounds, making it capable of being pushed by a single person. Custom lightweight designs could reduce the weight even further to about 350 pounds, the researchers say.
After testing the MRI scanner in three healthy adult volunteers, the research team at MGH found that the system generated 3D brain images within about 10 minutes.
“Although MRI is the premier imaging modality for brain imaging, the purchase and installation of traditional high-field MRI scanners can be prohibitively expensive and difficult,” radiology investigator at MGH’s Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and study lead author Clarissa Zimmerman Cooley said in the release. “Even in a hospital where MRI scanners are available, there are cases where it may be too difficult or dangerous to transport the patient to scanner suites. The work in this paper was really motivated by this need for more accessible MRI.
“This type of technology could really extend the reach of MRI. With some further development, this could allow truly point-of-care, bedside brain imaging for patients or scanning in remote locations, where MRI has traditionally been unavailable.”