Purpose: This work investigates with simulation the effect of external stray magnetic fields on a recently reported MRI-linac hybrid, which by design will rotate about the patient axis during therapy. During rotation, interactions with magnetic fields from the earth or nearby ferromagnetic structures may cause unacceptable field distortions in the imaging field of view. Optimal approaches for passive shimming implementation, the degree and significance of residual distortion, and an analysis of the active shimming requirements for further correction are examined.
Methods: Finite element simulations were implemented on two representative types of biplanar magnet designs. Each of these magnet designs, consisting of a 0.2 T four-post and a 0.5 T C-type unit, was simulated with and without an external field on the order of the earth's field (0.5 G) over a range of rotated positions. Through subtraction, the field distribution resulting from the external field alone could be determined. These measured distributions were decomposed into spherical harmonic components, which were then used to investigate the effect of their selective removal to simulate the effects of passive and active shimming. Residual fields after different levels of shim treatment were measured and assessed in terms of their imaging consequence.
Results: For both magnet types, the overall success of a passive shim implementation was highly dependent on the orientation for which it was based. If this orientation was chosen incorrectly, the passive shim would correct for the induced fields at that location, but the overall maximal distortion at other locations was exacerbated by up to a factor of two. The choice of passive shim orientation with the least negative consequence was found to be that where the magnet B(0) axis and transaxial component of the external field were aligned. Residual fields after passive shimming and frequency offset were found to be low in the simulated scenarios, contributing to <1 mm of distortion for most standard imaging sequences (based on a 0.5 G external field). However, extremely rapid single-shot sequences could be distorted by these residual fields to well over 5 mm. These residuals when analyzed were found to correspond primarily to second-order spherical harmonic terms. One term in particular was found to account for the vast majority of these residual fields, defined by the product of the two axes perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The implementation of this term would allow the resulting geometric distortion to fall to the order of 1 mm, even for single-shot sequences.
Conclusions: After appropriate passive shimming, the imaging distortion due to an external field of 0.5 G was found to be important only in rapid single-shot sequences, which are especially susceptible to field inhomogeneity. Should it be desirable to use these sequences for real-time tracking, made conceivable due to the lower susceptibility concerns at low field, these residual fields should be addressed. The ability to use only one second-order term for this correction will reduce the cost impact of this decision.