Breaking the Speed Limit of MRI
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields that are thousands of times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field so that we can have incredibly detailed images of the inside of the human body. These images give doctors critical information about damaged body parts or diseased organs without exposing the patient to potentially harmful radiation.
Despite MRI’s advantages, it suffers from a big problem: it takes a long time to acquire the data to create these high-resolution images. An MRI exam can take over an hour. This may not sound like much until you consider that while the scan is going on the patient must lie perfectly still in a long narrow tube while the MRI makes noise as loud as a rock concert.
Dr. Charles McKenzie, Canada Research Chair in Parallel Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is working to break the speed limits of MRI using a technique called Parallel MRI. In a standard MRI scan an image is built up one piece at a time, similar to the way a fax machine scans a document one line at a time. In parallel MRI, large numbers of sensors are used to acquire many parts of the image at the same time, dramatically reducing scan time.
McKenzie is developing technologies for Parallel MRI that may ultimately allow all the sections of an MRI image to be acquired simultaneously. This would open a huge array of possibilities, including taking an MRI of the entire body in just a few seconds or getting an image of the heart within a single heart beat.