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Improved diagnosis options for brain investigations thanks to magnetic resonance tomography

(Vienna, 24th of October 2011) Simon Robinson from the University Department of Radiodiagnostics at the Medical University of Vienna has discovered how diagnostic reliability can be significantly increased with phase imaging in magnetic resonance tomography. This could lead to improved diagnostics for brain investigations - and in particular of the venous system. 

Until now, phase imaging performed as part of susceptibility-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (SWI) has generated high numbers of what are known as artefacts, or image errors, that make diagnosis more difficult. Says Robinson: “Artefacts can even lead to misdiagnosis. Some artefacts on the images look like microhemorrhages. As a result, many neurosurgeons are very wary of using SWI and only use it on a very limited basis". This could soon change with the new method.

The physicist at the Centre of Excellence for High-Field MR at the MedUni Vienna has discovered how the phase images can be combined to produce better-quality results. The source of erroneous artefacts is significantly reduced as a result. Robinson: “This simultaneously increases diagnostic reliability for neurosurgeons and also allows new questions to be asked, as well as the imaging of veins on the cortical surface.” Moreover, phase imaging has the advantage over conventional MRT methods of magnitude imaging that it has a different contrast intensity and therefore responds more sensitively to iron deposits such as are found in Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer's disease.

Phase imaging is currently primarily being used in venography, in which the venous vessels of the head are examined. Says Robinson: “Phase imaging allows us to see whether and how treatment is influencing venous growth." The new method, which is currently being used only in clinical research, also allows the position of tumours in the brain to be determined more accurately. A further area of use might be the investigation of stenoses, narrowings of the blood vessels or other hollow organs.

The initial results of this research have been published in the highly respected journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 2011. The method has been registered for patent by the MedUni Vienna.