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Chapter 10


A block diagram of the basic components of an MR imaging system is shown in .Fig. 10.1. An MR
imaging system requires hardware für producing the magnetic fields and für sequence control, data
acquisition, processing, and image display.

Figure 10.1: Block Diagram of an MR Imaging System

10.1 Main Field


• Field Strength: 0.02 T -2.0 T (for whole-body imagers)

- low field - lower SNR, but shorter T1's
- high field - higher SNR but longer Tl's, poorer RF inhomogeneity, higher RF power
deposition. Better for MR spectroscopic imaging.

• Types of Magnets

- permanent (< 0.4 T)

* cheaper
* lower fringe fields
* lower operating costs
* poor homogeneity and temporal stability

- resistive-air-core or iron-core (< 0.4 T)

* cheaper
* lower fringe fields
* can turn off easily
* require power, water (for cooling)
* relatively poor homogeneity and temporal stability

- superconductive (typically 0.5 T to 2.0 T)

* most common
* higher field strength (higher SNR)
* good homogeneity and temporal stability
* more expensive
* requires cryogens (e.g. liquid He)
* larger fringe fields
* can quench (lose superconductivity) - costly and inconvenient

10.2 Radiofrequency Fields

The main sources of noise are from 1) the RF coil (RF coil is a lossy inductor) and pre-amplifier, and 2)
the subject (the body is a conducting medium that can be modelled as a resistor, dissipating energy). In
designing an RF coil (inductance Lcoil), we desire low intrinsic coil losses (which implies a high unloaded

" ω Lcoil %
quality factor $ Q = >> 1' ). This ensures that the dominant source of noise will be from the
# Rcoil &
subject (Brownian motion of the body electrolytes), in which case the loaded Q of the coil (with the
subject inside the coil) is significantly lower than the unloaded Q. In general, there may be both electric
and magnetic coupling of an RF coil to the body. Good MR coil design strives to minimize the amount of
electric coupling to avoid dielectric losses because electric fields play no role in NMR detection. Thus
losses due to inductive coupling should play the dominant role. These losses are unavoidable as inductive
coupling is a fundamental aspect of MR signal reception. Ideally, the receiver coil should be sensitive to
only the imaged region (e.g. a slice) because while signal is received from that imaged region, noise is
picked up from the entire volume of sensitivity. Thus we wish

imaged volume
= 1. (10.1)
"noise volume" seen by receiver coil

Figure 10.2: Body coil is designed to be uniformly sensitive to entire volume encompassed by coil. Such
a design lends flexibility in imaging a large region (for example, with multi-slice imaging) but, for any
given slice, will produce a lower SNR image because of the large noise volume seen by the coil.

However, in the case of an all-purpose body coil (Fig. 10.2), the noise volume can be significantly greater
than the particular slice that is being imaged. The SNR is therefore poorer than it need be, but the body
coil is often used because it offers flexibility and convenience of use in imaging a large region.
The following are some other considerations of RF coils.

• Geometry

- solenoidal geometry: applicable when Bo field is perpendicular to body axis.

- saddle: applicable when B0 is parallel to body axis.

• Polarization
- linear drive coils produce a linearly polarized field decomposable into two
counterrotating circularly polarized fields.
- quadrature drive coils (basically 2 linear coils in space quadrature (90° apart)) produce a
circularly polarized RF field. Compared to linear drive coils, quadrature drive coils
reduce transmit power (hence less RF heating of subject), produce more uniform

excitation, and give an SNR improvement of 2 (averaging the signal from two coils).

Figure 10.3: Surface coil sensitive to superficial region of body. Better SNR is achieved in the proximal
regions because of the smaller noise volume seen by the coil.

• Transmit/Receive Set-Up

- single coil for both transmit and receive. requires protective circuitry since received
signals are in microvolt range.

- separate coils for transmit and receive. must isolate transmit coil from receive coil during
signal reception. often desire uniform excitation with a head or body coil, but wish to
receive signal from localized region using a surface coil.

• Surface coils

- a local coil coupled to a limited region of the body (Fig. 10.3).

- appropriate for imaging superficial structures (e.g. eyes, spine) or for extremities. better
SNR possible in those regions because of better imaged - volume to noise-volume ratio,
not good for imaging deep lying structures because of rapid falloff of sensitivity with

- usually the receiver coil in a separate transmit/receive coil set-up. transmit coil with
better uniformity (e.g. body coil) excites with uniform tip angle. surface coil used for
reception for improved SNR of superficial region.

10.3 Gradient Fields

dBz dBz dBz

Need to produce three orthogonal linear gradient fields: Gx = , Gy = , and Gz = . On
dx dy dz
whole-body systems, strength of gradient fields < 1 G/cm. Maximum switching rate of these fields is
roughly < 2 G/cm/ms.

10.4 Digital Processing and Display

Typically the analog-to-digital (A/D) converters used in MR systems quantize the signal to 14 bits.
Sampling rates, which depend on the bandwidth of the received signal, are usually less than 100 kHz.
Conventional image reconstruction consists of mainly 2D FFT operations and can be executed quickly on
an array processor. Image display is on a 256 by 256 (or 512 by 512) gray-scale monitor.