Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant

Greg Freiherr has reported on developments in radiology since 1983. He runs the consulting service, The Freiherr Group.

Blog | Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant | January 05, 2012

MR Patient Comfort Rings in the New Year

Think oval. That’s what you’re doing if you are Hitachi Medical. The company came out with a novel design for high-end magnetic resonance (MR) at the RSNA meeting a couple of months ago, a design that compresses the decades-old circle into an ellipse. The thinking is elementary. The human body is wider horizontally across the shoulders than it is vertically through the chest. Add to that the less than flattering fact that we tend to flatten out when we lie down, especially those of us over the age of 40. So why not add the room in the bore where it is most needed?

The 1.5T Hitachi Echelon Oval does that, laying claim to being the widest of the wide bores, at least along one plane. Horizontally, the Echelon Oval bore extends 74 cm — 4 more than competing circular wide bores. According to Hitachi, its oval is wide enough to fit the most and least athletic of us, while helping to calm the nearly claustrophobic.

Time will tell whether the oval will catch on — or even if it will hang on as an alternative to conventional wide bores. But that’s not really the point. More significant is that the Echelon Oval exists at all.

Hitachi led the open scanner revolution in the mid- to late 1990s. Today, the company is just one of two that offers a commercial system at true high-field, the 1.2T Hitachi Oasis (http://www.itnonline.com/article/hitachi-oasis-mr-receives-klas-award-rs...). The other is Philips with its 1T Panorama HFO (http://www.itnonline.com/article/open-mri-opens-opportunities-referring-...). 

The significance of the Echelon Oval is that, in releasing this oval-shaped wide bore, Hitachi — the pioneer of the open — concedes that 1.5T is beyond the grasp of the open architecture. This concession comes even as the MR community has moved on to 3T.

Together, these developments all but seal open MR as an anomaly on the timeline of MR. If a 1.5T cannot be developed as an open, an open 3T scanner is all but impossible, at least as a commercial development.

So it is with some sorrow in the passing of this grand venture in engineering that we must accept the fact that the open as a future technology is dead.

Long live the ring.

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