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What to expect in the next decade for MRI?

MRI has remained at the pinnacle of diagnostic imaging, with untold influence over many advances in diagnostic radiology. Yet as we enter an increasingly digital era of medicine, what role will MRI play? Below, we explore some of the future developments and speculate about their influence on MRI and radiology in general.

MRI in neurology
The use of MRI for neurology has benefited from the growing role of specific software tools to support analysis. Looking forward, radiomics is sure to play a far bigger role. The software is now making neurological radiomics more accessible and integrated. If this trend continues, establishment of threshold quantitative values for diagnosis of common neurological disorders, such as hippocampal volume for dementia, is expected to become standardized.

Multi-contrast MRI images from a single acquisition
This technique gives users the flexibility to manipulate MR images retrospectively, leading to significant time savings, fewer rescans, and therefore cost savings, which combined can assist the clinician in making a more decisive diagnosis. It uses an acquisition technique that allows the ability to modify image contrast after scanning has been completed, which is not possible with conventional MR.

Software greatly reduces MRI scan time (quicker, smarter, cheaper)
Scan time has been dramatically reduced across various protocols, though focus has been directed mostly toward the highest-volume scans – spinal, brain, and knee. For providers, new systems allow an increase in patient throughput without compromising the quality of diagnoses, not to mention the financial and operational benefits.

Radiation therapy and MRI
Much like the development of 7-tesla MRI for clinical use, the potential use of MRI for radiation therapy (RT), in place of separate CT and RT linear accelerators (linac), has long been discussed and debated. Yet in the last few years, integrated MRI-linac has become a clinical reality, with a handful of systems now in use and with many more on order. Looking forward, MRI-linac systems will become more widely used, especially as a growing number of vendors develop systems. System cost will certainly remain prohibitive (systems can range from 4 million euros to 10 million euros based on current or planned pricing for systems in development), though leading cancer-treatment centers are already looking to switch to a fully integrated MRI-linac approach.

Weight-bearing MRI exams
It can tilt to put patients into a weight-bearing position up to a full 90 degrees, an application seeing increasing interest. Some clinical pathologies, particularly in the musculoskeletal environment, are not really apparent in the supine position. The body coil is placed on the patient in the supine position, and then positioning adjustments are made directly on the scanner. A full exam can be completed in six to eight minutes.

Simplifying MRI-conditional implant scans
Advancements in medical implant technologies have greatly increased the number of patients with these devices in recent years, with complicated MRI scanning of these patients. The new ScanWise implant software offers a guided user interface and automatic scan-parameter selection, designed to support “first-time-right” imaging. The software guides operators to meet the specific criteria for each implant.

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