An MRI (left) shows even the smallest changes to tissue and organs, while a PET scan (right) shows the activity in specific parts of body. A combined molecular MR image (center) gives additional information for a more comprehensive assessment of the disease.
MRI is a long-established and ever-improving technique for imaging structures in the body. On the other hand, Position Emission Tomography (PET) is used to show metabolic processes in the body. In the past, the two techniques were used sequentially if MRI alone was not sufficient for a diagnosis. However today, both MRI and PET are united in a single scanner - the molecular magnetic resonance (mMR) system.
How does mMR work?
MMR is an innovative hybrid imaging technology that captures metabolic, functional and structural processes at the same time. This new technology makes a single reference image by combining both techniques -- a tremendous advancement in diagnostic accuracy and precision.
Magnetic resonance imaging is based on the physical principle of nuclear resonance. It uses strong magnetic fields and alternating electromagnetic fields to excite the hydrogen nuclei in the body. As the nuclei return to a rest state they give off electrical signals, which the MRI scanner detects and uses to construct medical images. The results are precise 3-dimensional images of tissue structures.
With the simultaneous acquisition of MR and PET data, this system is designed to provide new opportunities for imaging. While MRI exams show the structural and functional detail of the human body, a PET scan shows the body's metabolic processes - its functions. The images are acquired by injecting a very small dose of a radioactive substance that travels through the body and is absorbed by the organs and tissues. The PET imaging device detects and records the energy given off by the tracer substance, thus making metabolic and biochemical processes in the human body visible. The results are usually 3-dimensional color-coded images of biological processes.
The innovative system has the potential to be a particularly valuable tool for identifying neurological, oncological and cardiac conditions of disease and in supporting the planning of appropriate therapies The mMR also opens new opportunities for research, such as the development of new biomarkers or new therapeutic approaches. One of the biggest advantages of simultaneous MR and PET imaging is reduction in examination time by almost 50%.