7-tesla (7T) MRI displays brain tissue characteristics more crisply than the 3T MRI that is in wide use today. This advanced imaging technology, approved for clinical use by the FDA in 2017 but used for research at Cleveland Clinic since 2014, already is having a notable impact on the diagnosis and treatment of multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, degenerative brain disorders and brain tumors.
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Neuroradiologist Stephen Jones, MD, PhD, Vice Chair for Research and Academic Affairs in Cleveland Clinic’s Imaging Institute, calls 7T MRI a “problem-solving instrument” for when 3T MRIs do not provide enough clarity. “I’m not sure whether every hospital has to have multiple 7T machines,” he says, “but every catchment area probably should have one.”
Dr. Jones explains more about 7T MRI applications in the newest episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Neuro Pathways podcast, touching on the following:
Click the podcast player above to listen to the 18-minute episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Neuro Pathways episodes at clevelandclinic.org/neuropodcast or wherever you get your podcasts.
Dr. Jones: Most mild traumatic brain injury shows normal MRIs, yet we know the patients are suffering. We know that something is wrong in the microstructure of the brain, but often MRIs can’t quite see it. However, sometimes tiny hemorrhages have occurred. Now, 7 tesla is exquisitely sensitive to the chronic blood products that can come from microhemorrhages. We have seen many patients with questionable traumatic brain injury for whom we can use the 7 tesla as a microscope for small hemorrhages, to see where they might be and change the diagnosis for traumatic brain injury.
One of the interesting applications for degenerative brain disorders also is related to microhemorrhages. There’s a close association between Alzheimer’s disease and amyloid deposition. Amyloid deposition may occur in areas surrounding blood vessels, making them more likely to bleed. What we can see in some people that have this disease, amyloid angiopathy, is exquisite numbers of microhemorrhages that have a cortically based distribution — very characteristic. 7 tesla can show the numerous microhemorrhages in this cortical or gyriform pattern, helping nail that diagnosis.