At the beginning of 2022, the centre embarked on a major upgrade programme of its MRI capabilities which involved replacing two of its fleet of three MRI machines with two new scanners, with the aim of improving image quality while increasing accessibility and comfort for more patients. The centre made the decision to replace not just one of its 1.5T but also its 3T machine with two new 1.5T scanners.
The “T” stands for “Tesla”, and refers to the field strength of the magnet that is used in a scanner’s ring. Historically, scanners with stronger magnets have been able to produce better images more quickly.
A 3T MRI scanner features a significantly stronger magnetic field than a 1.5T scanner, and as a result replacing it with a 1.5T scanner has meant the image quality had to be maintained or improved through innovative methods. Paul Strickland Scanner Centre embraced deep learning technology, specifically the Deep Resolve AI software, to achieve this goal. Deep Resolve utilises deep learning and image reconstruction techniques to enhance image quality. By upscaling lower resolution images and reducing noise, it enables 1.5T scanners to deliver images that are on par with their higher-field-strength counterparts.
Mr Will McGuire, Deputy Superintendent for MRI at the centre, said: “We were really impressed by the results shown by the Deep Resolve software, which has allowed us to maintain high image quality while significantly reducing scan times. In essence, patients could receive the same level of diagnostic accuracy and quality in a fraction of the time it used to take.”
One notable advantage of this transformation is the increased accessibility for patients with implants, which are not uncommon in older patients. Due to the lower field strength of the 1.5T MRI scanner, more patients with various types of implants, such as pacemakers, can now undergo MRI scans safely, widening the scope of patients who can benefit from this technology. Both of the new scanners came equipped with increased automation, improving the consistency of the imaging process.
Radiographers are assisted by the technology, making it easier for them to acquire high-quality images efficiently. However, this change raises questions about the future role of radiographers.
Mr McGuire said: “With the software significantly improving the efficiency of the imaging process, radiographers will increasingly focus on patient care and interaction. As technology automates the technical aspects of scanning, radiographers will have more time to ensure patients are comfortable, relaxed, and well cared for during the procedure.
There will be greater opportunities for radiographers to specialise in different areas of patient care or technical support, emphasising the need for strong interpersonal skills and patientcentric care.”
“At the same time, greater automation can have real benefits for patients by not only improving efficiency but by also decreasing differences between scans which are the result of how different radiographers use the machine at different centres. Greater standardisation could ultimately translate into improved treatment for patients.”
While the implementation of Deep Resolve software has increased efficiency in image acquisition, challenges remain in the reporting phase which is carried out by radiologists.
Radiology reporting still heavily relies on human expertise, and addressing the shortage of radiologists is essential. However, the potential for AI to assist radiologists in the reporting process is being explored, offering the promise of quicker and more accurate results.
Mr McGuire said: “In the broader context, as the radiography profession evolves, it may require a shift towards shorter and more specialised training programmes to meet the growing demand for radiographers. Furthermore, the role of radiographers is set to become more patient-focused, emphasising the importance of compassionate care during the imaging process, as the more technical side of the job will be handled by software.”
“This transformation in medical imaging, facilitated by Deep Resolve and other advanced technologies, offers patients faster, safer, and more accessible diagnostic scans. As the radiography profession adapts to these changes, the future of medical imaging holds promise for both improved patient care and the continued advancement of technology.”
Left: previous diffusion image quality with a 20 minute scan time.
Right: new equivalent image quality with a 10 minute scan time.