ultraMRI - Ultrasonic radiation pressure induced contrast in MR imaging
Two screening tools for breast cancer are broadly utilized. The breast examination is performed by the gynecologist or
the patient herself. Each breast is visually and haptically examined for possible lumps, distortions or swellings. For some reasons, notably the limited human tactile sense, this
tool is hardly capable for reliable early recognition of breast
cancer. The widely-used mammography promises to be a more approved method and is commonly recommended for
women at the age of 40 or older. However, also
mammography suffers from several shortcomings. Often the
patients needlessly become concerned due to false
positives. On the other hand, false negatives frequently yield fatal consequences. For most patients the compression
panels are at least inconvenient or even painful, the X-ray
dose causes further risks. Moreover, mammography is not
feasible for most of younger women because of their
comparably high breast tissue density. Recently MRI examination was suggested as a new standard tool for early breast cancer diagnosis. Naturally no radiation exposure occurs. However, this examination relies
on the application of contrast agents and it is hard to
interpret the image data even for experienced radiologists.
Invention: The Helmholtz-Institut für Strahlen- und Kernphysik at the University of Bonn recently developed a novel method which combines the benefits of tactile and MRI breast examination. The innovative ultraMRI method relies on inducing MRI contrast by ultrasonic radiation pressure. The radiation force of very short ultrasonic pulses causes a breast tissue displacement. Since healthy tissue and artifacts, e. g. calcifications or carcinomas, possess different mechanical properties, they suffer a different displacement. This is also the basis for the common manual examination. However, ultraMRI is much more sensitive and provides a much better spatial resolution: Even tiny displacement differences are easily detected in MR phase images and precisely localized by the corresponding MR amplitude images. As a result, ultraMRI provides a novel straightforward tool for early breast cancer diagnosis.
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