Sensitivity of portable low-field magnetic resonance imaging for multiple sclerosis lesions

Neuroimage Clin. 2022:35:103101. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2022.103101. Epub 2022 Jun 27.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a fundamental tool in the diagnosis and management of neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). New portable, low-field strength, MRI scanners could potentially lower financial and technical barriers to neuroimaging and reach underserved or disabled populations, but the sensitivity of these devices for MS lesions is unknown. We sought to determine if white matter lesions can be detected on a portable 64mT scanner, compare automated lesion segmentations and total lesion volume between paired 3T and 64mT scans, identify features that contribute to lesion detection accuracy, and explore super-resolution imaging at low-field. In this prospective, cross-sectional study, same-day brain MRI (FLAIR, T1w, and T2w) scans were collected from 36 adults (32 women; mean age, 50 ± 14 years) with known or suspected MS using Siemens 3T (FLAIR: 1 mm isotropic, T1w: 1 mm isotropic, and T2w: 0.34-0.5 × 0.34-0.5 × 3-5 mm) and Hyperfine 64mT (FLAIR: 1.6 × 1.6 × 5 mm, T1w: 1.5 × 1.5 × 5 mm, and T2w: 1.5 × 1.5 × 5 mm) scanners at two centers. Images were reviewed by neuroradiologists. MS lesions were measured manually and segmented using an automated algorithm. Statistical analyses assessed accuracy and variability of segmentations across scanners and systematic scanner biases in automated volumetric measurements. Lesions were identified on 64mT scans in 94% (31/33) of patients with confirmed MS. The average smallest lesions manually detected were 5.7 ± 1.3 mm in maximum diameter at 64mT vs 2.1 ± 0.6 mm at 3T, approaching the spatial resolution of the respective scanner sequences (3T: 1 mm, 64mT: 5 mm slice thickness). Automated lesion volume estimates were highly correlated between 3T and 64mT scans (r = 0.89, p < 0.001). Bland-Altman analysis identified bias in 64mT segmentations (mean = 1.6 ml, standard error = 5.2 ml, limits of agreement = -19.0-15.9 ml), which over-estimated low lesion volume and under-estimated high volume (r = 0.74, p < 0.001). Visual inspection revealed over-segmentation was driven venous hyperintensities on 64mT T2-FLAIR. Lesion size drove segmentation accuracy, with 93% of lesions > 1.0 ml and all lesions > 1.5 ml being detected. Using multi-acquisition volume averaging, we were able to generate 1.6 mm isotropic images on the 64mT device. Overall, our results demonstrate that in established MS, a portable 64mT MRI scanner can identify white matter lesions, and that automated estimates of total lesion volume correlate with measurements from 3T scans.

Keywords: Hyperfine; Low-field MRI; Multiple sclerosis; Point-of-care MRI; Portable MRI; White matter lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / pathology
  • Neuroimaging
  • Prospective Studies