New technologies may create clearer diagnostic pictures

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have patented technologies that will make MRI quick enough to catch fleeting images during medical procedures and create vivid, three-dimensional pictures.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful diagnostic tool that lets doctors look deep inside the human body.

However, its pace can be slow, with each image taking many seconds or minutes to build.

These more nimble MRI techniques will mean fewer uncomfortable minutes inside scanners for patients and much quicker access to high-quality diagnostic images for physicians, said Biomedical engineer and medical physicist Charles Mistretta.

The information used to build MRI images exists in an alternate data universe called k-space.

Conventional MRI methodically assembles each image from the entire set of k-space data.

By sampling only critical elements of the k-space data and combining the sampled parts, Mistretta and his colleagues can construct images much faster, without compromising quality.

Faster image generation makes MRI applicable to angiography — the visualisation of arteries and veins — where the best image captures the brief instant when a contrast-enhancing chemical begins to course through a blood vessel.

Mistretta’s technique grabs a series of images in quick succession, ensuring that one will provide an ideal diagnostic view.

With the help of his technology, MRI should completely replace more risky X-ray approaches to angiography, Mistretta said.

And many other flight plans for navigating k-space exist, providing many possibilities for applications, such as motion-correcting algorithms for times when patients move under the scanner.