How low can MRI developers go when it comes to field strength?

By Philip Ward, AuntMinnieEurope.com staff writer

April 15, 2021 -- There's no obvious reason why MRI scanners cannot function effectively and deliver good image quality at low field strengths, according to Arthur Kaindl, PhD, head of MR at Siemens Healthineers. His team won the 2021 EuroMinnies Best New Radiology Device award for its Magnetom Free.Max scanner.

In our video interview, Kaindl said he is convinced that low-field systems have a bright future and will become a permanent feature of the MRI marketplace. He reports that his company's development team looked into going even lower than the 0.55-tesla magnet used by Magnetom Free.Max, but for now 0.55-tesla is a "sweet spot for high diagnostic value" in routine MRI and for expanding into new clinical fields like pulmonary imaging.

Commercial shipments of the new scanner, which took about three years to develop, are still on track to begin in August 2021. Two of the important benefits are portability and maneuverability, as shown during the first two European installations already completed in Erlangen, Germany, and Basel, Switzerland, Kaindl explained.

The Magnetom Free.Max slots into an existing helium-free infrastructure and enables end users to explore new clinical opportunities in pulmonary imaging and other areas, he added. Furthermore, digitalization is rapidly transforming MRI by applying new acquisition techniques and deep-learning-based reconstruction.

Prof. Dr. Elmar Merkle, head of radiology and nuclear medicine at the University Hospital Basel, used a control panel to move the magnet of the Magnetom Free.Max into its final location
Prof. Dr. Elmar Merkle, head of radiology and nuclear medicine at the University Hospital in Basel, used a control panel to move the magnet of the Magnetom Free.Max into its final location. Photos courtesy of Siemens Healthineers.
The magnet of the Free.Max just fit through this doorway at the University Hospital in Basel
A tight squeeze: The magnet of the Magnetom Free.Max just fits through standard hospital doors -- there was no need to open walls for the installation at the University Hospital in Basel.

Further interviews with the winners of the 2021 EuroMinnies awards will follow during the second half of April. Now in its third year, the scheme is an annual event recognizing excellence in radiology. Candidates are nominated by AuntMinnieEurope.com members, with winners selected by an expert panel in two rounds of voting. A full list of winners in the 2021 edition of the Minnies is available on AuntMinnieEurope.com.


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