Diagnostic imaging  

Benefits of MRI scans offset high cost

11 October 2005

London, UK. An analysis of developments in magnetic resonance imaging technology by Frost & Sullivan concludes that the technology has great benefits which offset the high costs.

Due to the prohibitive purchase and installation costs of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, both patients and physicians are reluctant to invest in them unless they are assured of investment or procedural expenditure returns. Nevertheless, MRI scans' compelling benefits of non-invasiveness and elimination of harmful ionised radiation are helping them make the cut in the commercial market.

MRI scans provide images of any part of the body, in any plane, and offer more detailed information than X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans can. Furthermore, the MRI contrast materials used for image enhancement have very low incidence of side effects.

"As the mid- and high-field scanners experience a higher adoption rate, sales in low-field scanners are certainly dipping," says Frost & Sullivan ( www.ti.frost.com ) Research Analyst Sangeetha Prabakar. "The mid- and high-field scanners provide benefits such as additional applications, faster scan times and increased image quality; thereby, having a greater market impact on MRI."

However, low-field scanners are not expected to completely disappear because customers and clinics that seek cheaper imaging modalities will still provide a healthy and steady market for them.

Once market barriers of tight research budgets, complexity of the instrument, and high costs of MRI scans are resolved, healthcare units are likely to increase adoption of these systems.

Apart from market barriers, the MRI industry will also have to find solutions to technical issues such as scanning of people wearing pacemakers, orthopaedic hardware (screws, plates, artificial joints) aneurysm clips, or dental implants. These devices cause severe artifacts while imaging, thereby compromising the accuracy of the image. These technical challenges are currently being focussed by many technology developers striving to manufacture pacemakers, metallic implants and aneurysm clips which are MRI compatible.

Due to the ever-increasing demand for patient comfort, the need to replace conventional closed MRI systems with open MRI systems, which eliminate concerns such as patients' claustrophobia, size and weight, has intensified.

"Philips Medical Systems' Panorama 1.0T high-field open MRI is the first truly open high field MR system with active shielding, which offers the most open environment for patient comfort and advanced imaging performance," observes Ms. Prabakar. "Its actively shielded lightweight magnet enables the system to be installed in almost any existing MR suite with minimised siting costs."

Meanwhile, Siemens Medical Solutions has introduced the revolutionary total imaging matrix (Tim) technology, based on the matrix coil concept. This technology not only enables whole body imaging in a single sitting and thereby, doing away with the need for body repositioning, it also enhances the acquisition speed and image quality in local examinations.

By limiting the exposure time for a head-to-toe scan to twelve minutes, Tim technology eliminates claustrophobia by 80% and significantly reduces noise. While these factors make MRI scanning less stressful for patients, it also greatly improves workflow in hospitals and lowers life cycle costs.

Since many technology developers have begun to take to the concept of open MRI with higher field strength, physicians have been able to conduct faster, hassle-free scans that also provide better image quality and often, higher accuracy. This kind of technology revolution in medical imaging benefits both patients and physicians.

The MRI industry is gearing up for another major technological revolution with the introduction of portable MRI units. Two teams of researchers at Princeton and Germany/California/New York have figured out ways to make the systems much more compact and affordable. Using these devices, healthcare professionals can routinely study objects in their natural environment and get them to work in industrial processing, materials and earth sciences, and a wider range of medical diagnostics.

Moreover, MRIs' unique ability to image both anatomically and functionally is finding the technology new applications in surgical planning and navigation as well as in diffusion and perfusion imaging.

"MRI equipment's indispensability as a diagnostic aid notwithstanding, the number of installed units in developing Asian countries is still low," notes Ms. Prabakar. "This could be attributed to the financial uncertainty in the region, which has significantly weakened the local currencies and therefore, limited the purchasing power of end users."

Meanwhile, this situation offers industry participants an enormous potential to tap into the huge customer base. They have to leverage MRI's growing status as the preferred diagnostic imaging method for imaging the central nervous system, particularly for detecting brain tumours, spine lesions, imaging blood vessels, and stroke affected areas of brain.

With technology developers exploring many new applications, especially those involving cardiac and neuroimaging, it is inevitable that MRI would evolve into a highly sophisticated medical imaging tool. Some of the improvements made to the technology have further enhanced the modality and many applications have adopted these systems.


If you are interested in the virtual brochure which provides manufacturers, end users, and other industry participants with an overview, summary, challenges, and latest coverage of Emerging Technologies in MRI (D361) then send an e-mail to Radhika Menon Theodore - European Corporate Communications at rmtheodore@frost.com  with the following information: your full name, company name, title, telephone number, fax number and email. Upon receipt of the above information, an overview will be sent to you via e-mail.

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