Objectives: We sought to perform a preliminary comparison of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and image quality for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pancreas at 1.5 and 3 T.
Materials and methods: Two imaging cohorts were studied using a T2-weighted, single-shot fast spin-echo pulse sequence and a T1-weighted, fat-suppressed 3D gradient-echo pulse sequence. In the first cohort, 4 subjects were imaged using identical imaging parameters before and after contrast administration at 1.5 and 3.0 T. The SNR was quantified for the pancreas as well as for the liver, spleen, and muscle. In a second cohort of 12 subjects in whom the receiver bandwidth was adjusted for field strength, SNR measurements and qualitative rankings of image quality were performed.
Results: In the study cohort using identical imaging parameters at both magnetic field strengths, the mean (SD) ratios of SNR at 3.0 to 1.5 T of the single-shot fast spin-echo images for the pancreas, liver, spleen, and muscle were 1.63 (0.39), 1.82 (0.39), 1.45 (0.18), 2.01 (0.16), respectively. For the precontrast fat-suppressed 3D gradient-echo sequence, the corresponding ratios were 1.28 (0.29), 1.26 (0.30), 1.16 (0.27), and 1.76 (0.45), respectively; for the arterial phase, the corresponding ratios were 2.02 (0.28), 1.60 (0.42), 1.47 (0.26), and 1.94 (0.32), respectively; and for the delayed postcontrast phase, the corresponding ratios were 1.63 (0.51), 2.01 (0.25), 1.66 (0.06), and 2.31 (0.47), respectively. The SNR benefit of 3.0 T was significantly greater on contrast-enhanced as compared with noncontrast T1-weighted 3D gradient-echo images. In the second study cohort, SNR was superior at 3.0 T, although the use of a reduced readout bandwidth at 1.5 T substantially diminished the advantage of the higher field system. With qualitative comparison of images obtained at the 2 magnetic field strengths, the fat-suppressed 3D gradient-echo images obtained at 3.0 T were preferred, whereas the single shot fast spin-echo images obtained at 1.5 T were preferred because of better signal homogeneity.
Conclusions: Our results in a small cohort of volunteers and patients demonstrate a marked improvement in SNR at 3.0 T compared with 1.5 T (by a factor of 2 in some cases) when identical imaging parameters were used. The SNR advantage at 3.0 T is diminished but persists when the receiver bandwidth is adjusted for magnetic field strength. The results suggest that 3.0 T may offer promise for improved body MRI, although further technical development to optimize SNR and improve signal homogeneity will be needed before its full potential can be achieved.