A new 7 Tesla (7.0T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner weighing almost 25 tons has been added to the imaging technologies in the Building for Transformative Medicine (BTM) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The BWH 7.0T MRI scanner is part of a new generation of ultra-high field MRI instruments and one of the first to be installed in a clinical setting for future clinical use. Following federal and state approval, the 7.0T will offer clinical insights into neurodegenerative and musculoskeletal diseases that have not been possible until now.
“Images from the new scanner will provide greater specificity for earlier diagnosis and more precise treatment, particularly for patients with neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, and musculoskeletal conditions that involve the cartilage, muscle and fascia of the knee joint,” stated Srinivasan Mukundan, Jr., PhD, MD, medical director of Magnetic Resonance Imaging at BWH.
The 7.0T is more than double the strength of the current state-of-the-art 3.0T MRI scanners that are now widely in clinical use. The higher field strength means a better signal and higher resolution images of brain structures and irregularities, as well as the musculoskeletal system. When cleared for clinical use by the US Food and Drug Administration, the 7.0T will be the most powerful MRI scanner available for patient use.
The 7.0T will be housed in the Brigham’s BTM, which opened to patients in October 2016, and is designed to accelerate the translation of science into the clinical setting and bring cutting edge innovation and treatments to patients. The BTM includes an imaging floor especially designed and constructed to accommodate installation of new imaging devices, including the 7.0T, and allows for removal of MRI equipment for upgrade and repair. On May 20, the 7.0T was lowered by crane into the BTM through a specially designed access hatch to a loading platform below. It was then moved through a hold, and slowly pushed down the service corridor, a process that took several hours.
“Once approved for clinical use, the 7.0T will allow clinicians to visualize critical structures and pathologies of the brain that until now were not visible by MRI. These images will help clinicians differentiate between different diseases or conditions in which symptoms may be similar, and help provide evidence for choosing the best treatment option, and perhaps monitoring the effectiveness of a course of treatment. For example, in epilepsy, the identification of a lesion in the brain, previously not visible on standard MRIs, could allow for surgical treatment when drug therapy is ineffective. We expect new insights into traumatic brain injury and more detailed understanding of metabolic pathways in the brain,” Mukundan said.