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Aiming to make MRI diagnostic more accessible in community settings

King’s College London says it is ‘driving efforts to make new MRI technology more accessible in community settings’ through helium-free MRI research with the first such system in the UK from Siemens Healthineers.

The reduced-helium MRI allows the King’s team to evaluate this type of MRI for use outside a traditional hospital setting, while also using a lower field strength, expanding the scope of research into cardiac, respiratory, and foetal brain development imaging that was previously not possible. Siemens Healthineers said: “The delivery of the first MAGNETOM Free.Max at King’s College London, alongside funding from Research England, breaks the barriers of conventional MRI, enabling research previously not possible for the department. Unlike conventional MRI systems, the MAGNETOM Free.Max requires less than one litre of liquid helium for cooling – an increasingly scarce resource – eliminating the need for a quench pipe, which is otherwise used to safely and quickly expel helium out of a scanner in case of emergency. The virtually helium-free MRI scanner radically reduces infrastructure requirements, enabling it to be installed in community-based settings.

King’s College London, one of the world’s leading universities in imaging sciences, has an existing relationship with Siemens Healthineers, and has partnered with the company’s Research and Development team to provide additional insight into research projects utilising other MRI systems, including 1.5 T, 3 T, and 7 T MRI systems from it.

Siemens Healthineers said: “The addition of the 0.55T MAGNETOM Free.Max within the King’s Advanced MRI Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital (part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust) expands research capabilities, and exploits currently existing high-tech facilities, such as a Radio Frequency Coil Lab.” The King’s College London research team plans to use the lower field of 0.55 T for imaging research ‘into areas that are more challenging for MRI at 1.5 T and above’ – such as respiratory imaging, interventional radiology, and scanning patients with implants, as diagnostic capabilities are strongly improved.

The new MRI also features an 80 cm bore, which will provide a more comfortable scanning experience for claustrophobic and bariatric patients, increasing the likelihood of participation in studies. Augmented with AI, the system supports the automation of routine examinations – reducing cognitive load for researchers, and opening new possibilities for radiographers faced with increasing time pressures.

“The MAGNETOM Free.Max is a welcome addition to King’s College London, as we seek to evaluate how this kind of MRI might perform outside a hospital setting, and expand the scope of our imaging research with a lower field strength,” said Dr Sharon Giles, director of Clinical & Research Imaging Operations, School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, King’s College London. “Community diagnostic centres are the setting we’re trying to simulate here with the MAGNETOM Free.Max.”

Professor Sebastien Ourselin, head of the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London said: “The MAGNETOM Free.Max MRI is a prime example of how our School effectively works with industry to engineer better health. Together with Siemens Healthineers, we are creating more healthcare opportunities for clinicians – equipping them with technology to better deliver patient care, not only in standard hospital settings, but also within resource-limited areas in the broader community. The key funding from Research England, which allowed for the enabling works for the scanner to be fitted, bolsters the strategic objective of St Thomas’ MedTech Hub and the London Institute for Healthcare Engineering.”

Pictured (left to right) are: Chris Kasap, MR Application specialist, Siemens Healthineers GB&I; Dr Sharon Giles, director of Clinical and Research Imaging Operations at King’s College London; Matt Gibson, Diagnostic Imaging Business lead at Siemens Healthineers GB&I, Pip Bridgen, Advanced MRI radiographer, King’s College London, and Mitch Harrold, Regional sales manager, Siemens Healthineers GB&I.

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