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(Vienna, 4 March 2010) Since autumn 2007, the “Centre of Excellence for high-field MR” at the University Department of Radiology of the Medical University of Vienna has had one of the few 7-Tesla high-field MRT units worldwide. Magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) is not only one of the most important examinations used in clinical medicine - 7 Tesla opens up doors to new worlds, the results give hope to many patients.

MRT standard for imaging soft tissue
"Due to its high soft-tissue contrast, MRT is considered a method of choice for diagnosing soft tissue changes", explains Siegfried Trattnig, Professor for Radiology with focus on high-field MR at MedUni Vienna. Furthermore, contrary to CT, MRT does not involve ionising radiation, it can therefore be repeated as often as desired and safely used on children.

Experiments at the Centre of Excellence
The "Centre of Excellence for high-field MR", in which physicians and physicists work together, houses one of the few 7-Tesla-MR units on which the future of MRT is already being explored; worldwide there are only around 25 of these systems, most of them in the USA and Europe. "But 7-Tesla-MRT is a purely experimental device and it is therefore only allowed under study conditions, this means in concrete terms: only after being authorised by the Ethics Committee, whereas it is not permitted for routine clinical examinations", adds Trattnig.

Applications for 7 Tesla
In clinical routine an increasing number of 3-Tesla units are being used. By comparison, a 7-Tesla-MRT has more than double the magnetic flux density, "this means that examinations that have to date not been possible due to a weak signal are now possible on 7 Tesla", explains the Head of the Centre of Excellence for high-field MR at MedUni Vienna.

Breakthrough for brain tumours expected
Functional MRT benefits from the high signal-to-noise ratio: only little effect is achieved with 1.5 Tesla in the stimulation of blood oxygenation (oxygen enrichment) in the smallest cerebral vessels, whereas it could be increased by up to 20% on 7 Tesla - this leads to an enhancement of brain activation studies. This in turn has already furnished the first results in the field of brain tumours, where it is now possible due to the new increased specificity and resolution of 7-Tesla images to improve planning before surgery and better define the region to be operated on. "Therefore breakthroughs can be expected in functional MRT of the brain and with the multinuclear application regarding phosphorus and sodium", explains Trattnig.

Vienna as a unique location
The location of the 7 Tesla at the Vienna University Clinic provides the optimal prerequisite for clinically-oriented research, which means that the method and sequence development on 7 Tesla can be used relatively quickly in clinical studies on patients. "This combination is also relatively unique by international standards as research institutions that run a 7 Tesla have in most cases been built far from hospitals", says Trattnig, underlining the project’s benefit for the location of Vienna.

18,000 radiologists will meet in Vienna from 4th March
Also this year, at the 22nd European Congress of Radiology (ECR) from 4th to 8th March 2010 in Vienna, experts from the field of medical imaging will exchange their specialist knowledge in many different subjects and present the latest research findings.

The ECR is the annual congress of the European Society of Radiology with more than 18,000 participants from around the world; in addition, the congress constitutes the largest industrial exhibition in Europe, at which on over 26,000 m2 more than 300 international companies offer state-of-the-art products of medical technology.