In sensitivity encoding (SENSE), the effects of inhomogeneous spatial sensitivity of surface coils are utilized for signal localization in addition to common Fourier encoding using magnetic field gradients. Unlike standard Fourier MRI, SENSE images exhibit an inhomogeneous noise distribution, which crucially depends on the geometrical sensitivity relations of the coils used. Thus, for optimum signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) and noise homogeneity, specialized coil configurations are called for. In this article we study the implications of SENSE imaging for coil layout by means of simulations and imaging experiments in a phantom and in vivo. New, specific design principles are identified. For SENSE imaging, the elements of a coil array should be smaller than for common phased-array imaging. Furthermore, adjacent coil elements should not overlap. Based on the findings of initial investigations, a configuration of six coils was designed and built specifically for cardiac applications. The in vivo evaluation of this array showed a considerable SNR increase in SENSE images, as compared with a conventional array. Magn Reson Med 45:495-504, 2001.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.