(19)
(11)EP 4 053 579 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
07.09.2022 Bulletin 2022/36

(21)Application number: 22169370.8

(22)Date of filing:  17.04.2020
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
G01R 33/385(2006.01)
G01R 33/38(2006.01)
(52)Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC):
G01R 33/3806; G01R 33/3858; G01R 33/3808
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(62)Application number of the earlier application in accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
20170018.4 / 3896473

(71)Applicant: Siemens Healthcare GmbH
91052 Erlangen (DE)

(72)Inventors:
  • Popescu, Stefan
    91056 Erlangen (DE)
  • Kirsch, Rainer
    91083 Baiersdorf (DE)

 
Remarks:
This application was filed on 22-04-2022 as a divisional application to the application mentioned under INID code 62.
 


(54)MAGNET SYSTEM WITH DECOUPLED GRADIENT COILS FOR A MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING SYSTEM


(57) The invention describes a magnet system for a magnetic resonance imaging system (1) comprising a basic field magnet (4) and a gradient system (6), wherein coils of the gradient system (6) are positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field (B0) of the basic field magnet (4).
The invention further describes an according gradient system and a magnetic resonance imaging system with such magnet system.




Description


[0001] The invention describes a magnet system, preferably a gradient system, for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), especially for dental and extremity MRI scanners.

[0002] For more than four decades, the principle of magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") has been used for imaging and other measurements. In simplified terms, for this purpose, the object under examination is positioned in a magnetic resonance (MR) scanner in a comparatively strong and homogeneous static magnetic field, also known as the B0 field, having a field strength of 0.2 T to 7 T such that the nuclear spins of the object orient along the static magnetic field lines. In order to trigger the nuclear spin resonances, high-frequency excitation pulses (HF pulses) are irradiated toward the object under examination. The measured nuclear spin resonances is called k-space data and it is used for the reconstruction of MR images or the calculation of spectroscopy data.

[0003] For spatial encoding of the measured data, dynamically switching magnetic gradient fields are superimposed on the static magnetic field. The recorded measured data is digitalized and stored into a k-space matrix as complex values. An associated MR image can be reconstructed from the k-space matrix populated with such values, for example by means of a multidimensional Fourier transformation.

[0004] Traditional MR scanners employ a solenoidal type superconducting magnet while the patient is placed inside the bore of the MR scanner during the imaging session. Such scanner design confines the patient within a tight space and limits the accessibility to the patient's body for the medical staff, e.g. to carry out an interventional or therapeutic procedure guided by real-time MR imaging.

[0005] Most prior art of dental MR scanner employs solenoid type magnets that tend to be of large outer diameter due to the need to integrate an outer active shielding coil for safe operation within the dentist office, e.g. as it is shown in US 2018/0199853 A1. Moreover, and as the imaging field of view is positioned deeply into the central inner region of the solenoid, the access of the patient head into the magnet bore is further restricted by a cylindrical gradient coil positioned inside the magnet bore. The end effect is that the magnet inner bore shall be large enough to allow for access of the patient shoulders. This solution largely increases the scanner size and therewith also the costs.

[0006] Other scanner architectures use a C-shaped basic field magnet with an examination area lying between the two magnet shoes of the magnet.

[0007] In the latest time, a new scanner architecture is introduced comprising a toroidal basic magnetic field and multiple examination areas between magnet coils producing the toroidal magnetic field.

[0008] Looking at all these scanner architectures, they all have in common that they comprise gradient coils that are always positioned inside the basic magnetic field. The functional structure of the known systems can be compared with a Russian nesting doll: In the middle there is the patient or the examination area that is "surrounded" by coils for emitting and receiving radio frequency (RF). in the next "sphere" there are arranged the gradient coils that are enclosed by the basic field magnet.

[0009] Regarding gradient coils, their shape is adapted to the basic magnetic field. There are solenoids, but also planar coils that can be arrange parallel or in a V-shape. However, often the shape of the basic field magnetic seriously limits the space available for fitting the gradient coils around the examination area. As the gradient coils are very close to the field-of-view (FOV, i.e. the zone of an examination area) and the gradient coil size is restricted by the need to keep the magnet size as small as possible, a problem results with the attainable linearity of the gradient fields over the extension of the imaging region.

[0010] Another serious drawback of the known scanner architecture is the acoustic noise that is generated by the gradient coils during measurement.

[0011] It is the object of the invention to disclose a new design for a dedicated MR scanner architecture, especially for imaging specific organs or part of the human body, for example the dentition of a patient, that offers better gradient fields on the one hand and generate lower acoustic noise levels on the other hand.

[0012] This object is achieved by a magnet system according to claim 1, a gradient system according to claim 12 and a magnetic resonance imaging system according to claim 13.

[0013] A magnet system according to the invention for a magnetic resonance imaging system comprises a basic field magnet and a gradient system (with gradient coils). These gradient coils are preferably pairs of coils of the gradient system that are used to generate a gradient field for an axis of the gradient system. It is important for the effect of the invention that coils of the gradient system are positioned outside the area of the predefined basic magnetic field of the basic field magnet. It is yet clear that the basic field magnet is designed to apply the predefined basic magnetic field in a predefined examination area during an examination and that the gradient coils are designed and positioned to apply a gradient field in this examination area during this examination. Not all coils of the gradient system have to be outside the area of the basic magnetic field, however, at least the gradient coils should be arranged outside.

[0014] A magnet system according to the invention for a magnetic resonance imaging system actually comprises a number of pairs of gradient coils. This means that there are two gradient coils for each gradient axis. Typically, the gradient system creates gradients in X, Y and Z direction to realize a gradient distribution having X, Y and Z components. Thus, it is preferred that there is a pair of X gradient coils, a pair of Y gradient coils and a pair of Z gradient coils. It is clear that two gradient coils designed to create the same gradient (and being arranged on opposite sides of an examination area) are forming a pair. The gradient coils of each pair (i.e. the X, Y, and/or Z gradient coils) are arranged at opposite sides of an examination area. The examination area is the area where within the imaging process takes place, i.e. the volume enclosing the field of view (FOV) of the scanner.

[0015] Surely, the gradient system could also comprise further components that the gradient systems of the state of the art also comprise for an optimal functioning. These are e.g. dedicated gradient power amplifiers for each axis GPAx, GPAy and GPAz or holding structures. Also, the gradient system may comprise further coils, e.g. shim coils, coils generating non-linear encoding fields or dynamic field cycling coils for multi-dimensional spatial signal encoding and accelerated signal acquisition. While it is preferred that at least the gradient coils are arranged outside the basic magnetic field, since their wires carry the strongest and fast switching electric currents, it is also preferred to arrange the other coils as well outside the basic magnetic field.

[0016] The "predefined magnetic field" of the basic field magnet is the field used for measurements. Since magnetic fields are always circulating in a closed-path (and extend to infinity), it is not easy to define an inside and outside of a magnetic field if looking at it in a meticulous manner. However, a person skilled in magnetic resonance imaging can easily divide the basic magnetic field in a main field that lies in the examination area and is used for measurements and a stray field lying outside the examination area. The "main field" is the predefined basic magnetic field mentioned above. The other part of the magnetic field will be designated as "stray field".

[0017] The expression "outside" means that at least the proportion of the basic magnetic field used for measurements (the field lines running through the examination area / imaging volume) is not penetrating the respective gradient coils. Thus, respective gradient coils are arranged such that preferably no field lines of the basic magnetic field (main field) that are directly involved with the measurements are running through these gradient coils. Depending on the shape of the basic field magnet, one could also say that the respective gradient coils are not arranged in a space between the basic field magnet generator and the examination area. Alternatively, looking at a C-shaped basic field magnet one could say that there is at least one pole shoe of each polarity of a magnet lying inside a gradient coil or that the pole shoes are lying between the gradient coils (depending on the shape of the gradient coils). Looking at a solenoid basic field magnet, the gradient coils are arranged outside the solenoid coil. Looking at the stray field, one could say that the respective gradient coils are arranged in the stray field. Looking at absolute values of the field strength, "outside" means that the respective gradient coils are arranged in an area where the (predefined) field strength of a (stray) field applied by the basic field magnet generator is less than 10% of the (predefined) field strength in the examination area or the maximum field strength of the basic field magnet, preferably less than 1%, especially less than 0.1%.

[0018] The above described arrangement of the coils of the gradient system has the advantage that the basic field magnet can be designed smaller, which has a positive effect on the homogeneity of the basic magnetic field and the costs of the magnet. Furthermore, the acoustic noise level generated during examination is reduced. The noise level that occurs during the examination is proportional to the Lorenz forces acting on gradient coil conductors, which can be described by the formula F = q·v×B. (F = force on the conductors of the gradient coil, q·v = current that flows through the conductors of the gradient coil, B = strength of the magnetic field in which the conductors of the gradient coil are perpendicular to the magnetic field).

[0019] In the case of open magnetic resonance scanners that have pole pieces (e.g. C-shaped magnets), the basic magnetic field lies between the pole pieces. The solution to the problem (volume) is solved by installing the gradient coils with an open magnetic resonance scanner outside the primary magnetic field according to the invention. This also reduces the force acting on the conductors and therewith the resulting mechanical vibrations and acoustic noise.

[0020] In order to keep the linearity of the magnetic gradient fields as high as possible by minimizing the cross-product terms (Maxwell terms) and the high-order terms it would be required to increases the size of the gradient coils to be at least twice larger that the imaging volume and also to locate these coils away from the imaging region at a comparable distance. This can be achieved by the present invention, since the size of the gradient coils is not restricted by the geometry of the basic field magnet.

[0021] With gradient coils located within the magnet, as by prior art, an enlargement of the gradient coils would result in increasing the size of the magnet. A larger magnet size involves a higher production cost, which scales with the 3rd power of the magnet outer diameter. A larger magnet size results in a larger footprint for the extension of the stray magnetic fields (this is the 5G safety contour line). A larger footprint means higher installation costs at the customer site and restricted clinical workflow due to safety regulations. Thus, the invention has an advantageous effect on many aspects of an MRI system.

[0022] Thus, the new architecture places the gradient coil pairs outside the basic field magnet with the main benefit that the linearity of the generated magnetic gradient fields can be maximized at least inside the FOV, whilst the geometry of the magnet can be optimized to fit the target anatomy. Thereby the size and finally the cost for the main magnet (basic field magnet) can be much reduced for the same spatial extension of the imaging volume (examination area). As the prior art places the gradient coils inside the magnet torus, it thereby increases the size and the cost of the magnet. Furthermore, the invention allows a better access of medical staff to the patient for conducting clinical intervention and therapeutic procedures.

[0023] A gradient system according to the invention for a magnet system according to the invention comprises coils of a gradient system that are designed to be arranged outside a predefined area of a magnetic field of a basic field magnet.

[0024] A magnetic resonance imaging system according to the invention comprises a magnet system according to the invention. A preferred MR scanner architecture is particularly suited for MR imaging of dedicated body parts or organs of a patient (human or animal). Since the gradient system is arranged outside the basic magnetic field, the size of the basic field magnet can be chosen depending on the organs to be imaged with the system. The magnetic resonance imaging system is preferably designed for examining the head, the prostate, extremities, animals, neonates, preferably designed for dental imaging and/or designed for an examination of a body part of the group comprising brain, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle, knee, breast and prostate of a patient.

[0025] Preferably, the magnetic resonance imaging system comprises at least one examination area, preferably two or more examination areas, and the gradient system according to the invention for at least one examination area. A preferred MRI-scanner of such magnetic resonance imaging system comprises a inclined arrangement of basic field magnets, e.g. a star-shaped arrangement. MRI scanners with a toroidal MR scanner architecture are particularly preferred. In a star shaped arrangement of basic field magnets with a toroidal magnetic field, the front side of the gradient system should point to the outside of the toroid magnetic field.

[0026] Particularly advantageous embodiments and features of the invention are given by the dependent claims, as revealed in the following description. Features of different claim categories may be combined as appropriate to give further embodiments not described herein.

[0027] According to a preferred magnet system, the coils positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field of the basic field magnet are gradient coils, especially gradient coils for all three coordinate axes. Alternatively or additionally, the coils positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field of the basic field magnet are shim coils and/or coils generating non-linear encoding fields and/or dynamic field cycling coils for multi-dimensional spatial signal encoding and accelerated signal acquisition. Preferably, the additional coils are arranged parallel to the gradient coils, especially wherein the gradient system comprises blocks of coils comprising gradient coils and other coils. Since the gradient coils are arranged outside the basic magnetic field between the two magnet shoes, there will be a strongly reduced noise emission that can be diminished below hearing threshold depending on the arrangement of the gradient coils outside the basic magnetic field.

[0028] According to a preferred magnet system, the basic field magnet is a C-shaped magnet and coils of the gradient system, especially gradient coils, are arranged in the region of a pole shoe of the basic field magnet or such that the pole shoes of the basic-field-magnet lie between two of these coils.

[0029] According to a preferred magnet system, the basic field magnet has a toroidal field distribution and preferably two or more examination areas. It is preferred that the basic field magnet coils are arranged in a star shape. One advantage of using toroidal magnet systems for MRI scanners is that such magnet configurations minimize the stray field and eliminate the need for active shielding coils, which makes these magnets also even more efficient and cost effective. This allows compact siting of the MRI scanners, possible directly in the doctor's office without having to install them in a separate examination room.

[0030] Thus, according to a preferred embodiment, the basic field magnet arrangement comprises at least one group of basic field magnet segments (coils or groups of coils), which are arranged in a star shape around at least one spatial axis, with a side wall or edges of the respective basic field magnet segment pointing to this central axis. This arrangement is preferably rotationally symmetrical, with rotational symmetry of 360°/N being particularly preferred for N basic field magnet segments (in a group). With six basic field magnet segments, the basic field magnet arrangement would be e.g. like a six-pointed star. However, a star shape can also include another (partially) regular arrangement of magnet segments, e.g. that the basic field magnet segments are all regularly arranged within a semicircle. An arrangement of several of these partially regular star shapes around several central axes or spatial axes, e.g. two semicircular arrangements that are slightly spaced apart to make a total of e.g. to generate the above-mentioned basic magnetic field in the form of a toroid with straight passages inserted.

[0031] According to a preferred magnet system, the basic field magnet comprises an (iron) magnet yoke and coils of the gradient system are arranged such that their field couples into the magnet yoke. Thus, both, the basic field magnet and the coils of the gradient system preferably use the same yoke. It is preferred that the distance between the magnet yoke and each of the respective coils of the gradient system (arranged outside the basic magnetic field) is less than 2 cm, particularly preferably wherein the respective coils are in contact with the magnet yoke. Due to this small gap a coupling of the magnetic field of the coils into the yoke is much more effective than with a big gap between coils and yoke.

[0032] According to a preferred magnet system, the coils of the gradient system are planar coils preferably in a parallel arrangement. The parallel arrangement compared to a V-shaped arrangement can be an advantageous architecture that allows for achieving a better linearity of the gradient fields given relaxed design restrictions. These degrees of freedom can be further leveraged for minimizing the peripheral nerve stimulation effects and the generation of undesired eddy currents. According to a preferred gradient system, the gradient coils are bi-planar gradient coils. This has the advantage that the gradient system does not need much space. It is preferred that the gradient system comprises two or three pairs of gradient coils (e.g. X, Y and Z gradient coils), wherein all pairs of gradient coils are arranged in the same angle to another, i.e. the angle between the central planes are equal.

[0033] According to a preferred magnet system, the coils of the gradient system are placed symmetrically related to an examination area inside the predefined basic magnetic field of the basic field magnet. It is further preferred that the respective coils are arranged in a distance to another so that an object to be examined or the examination area fits between the respective coils. For example, in the particular case of dental imaging, such solution allows for the patient head to fit inside the space in between gradient coils.

[0034] According to the invention, coils of the gradient system are mechanically decoupled from the magnet, preferably wherein the coils are movable relative to the basic field magnet, especially by an actuator arm. In a preferred geometry, the gradient coils are mounted so that they can be rotated at an angle around the Z-axis. This allows to fit the gradient coils closer to the head and to avoid mechanical collisions with the patient shoulders. For example, the gradient coils are mechanically decoupled from the magnet and can be independently lifted-out by the actuator arm during the non-imaging time and relocated away from the patient body. This approach offers better access to the patient for the medical staff, as it may be often required for operative or non-operative dentistry or orthopedic procedures.

[0035] According to a preferred magnet system, the basic field magnet is arranged between coils of the gradient system, wherein the distance between these coils is preferably larger than the dimensions of the basic field magnet. This allows a minimal size of a basic field magnet.

[0036] According to the invention, the basic field magnet is shaped such that it fits the target anatomy, preferably wherein the basic field magnet is shaped like an open segment of a torus or cylinder for examination of extremities or shaped like a bicycle seat or a saddle for prostate exams. With the gradient system outside the basic field magnet, the scanner architecture can be easily modified to fit other body parts and internal organs, like for example for imaging the wrist, the elbow, the knee, the foot and foot-ankle, the female breast or the male prostate. The new architecture will be further appropriate for scanners dedicated to image a variety of small animals for veterinary applications. The scanner architecture may be also used for imaging neonates having the major advantage of only weak acoustic noise generated by the operation of gradient coils.

[0037] An advantage for all these various scanner configurations is that the magnet used to generate the static magnetic field can be made of the smallest possible size (and thereby of lowest possible cost and with the smallest footprint concerning the stray field) and shaped such that to optimally fit the target anatomy whilst the gradient coil system may be larger and designed such that to allow easy access to patient body for interventional procedures and to allow unrestricted positioning of the patient within the scanner.

[0038] According to a preferred magnet system, the gradient system comprises a cooling system that is also arranged outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field of the basic field magnet. Furthermore, the invention offers the general advantage that it is not absolutely necessary to shield the gradient coils, what makes them more efficient and heat dissipation is lower. Forced cooling for the gradient coils may be nevertheless advantageous. With the above described embodiment, a cooling solution will neither interfere mechanically with the basic field magnet nor restrict its geometry. With the invention, especially this embodiment, the heat developed within the gradient coils would mostly not be transferred to the magnet, thereby resulting in thermal drift of the magnet field intensity or its spatial distribution, whereas the heat sources in gradient coils will not be closely located or radiating toward the patient body.

[0039] According to a preferred magnet system, the gradient coils are arranged in a pivotable way, especially such that that they can be moved like a door, preferably wherein the gradient coils are planar coils and especially comprising a full faced cover so that they are designed to act as a blind. This is especially advantageous for a star shaped arrangement of basic field magnets or other arrangements with multiple examination areas, since it may be necessary to arrange the coils of the gradient system for a first examination area in front of a second examination area. These coils could be blocking the second examination area, and it should be possible to open the coils like doors for the second examination area. However, when the coils are used like doors, they may also be used as blinds to block the view into the second examination area. A star shaped arrangement of examination areas could be surrounded by coils of the gradient system, that could all be used as doors and/or blinds in addition to their technical use.

[0040] Since coils of the gradient system are positioned outside the basic field magnet and their orientation could be bound to mechanical constraints of the magnetic resonance imaging system, it could happen, that their windings have to be adapted in order to produce an optimal gradient field.

[0041] According to a preferred gradient system, a gradient coil is formed by a plurality of loops of a conductor. It is clear that preferably only one long conductor is wound into a number of loops, however, there could also appear open loops that are connected to another. In the following, the loops of a coil are designated as a "set of loops", wherein any references to moving actions are meant to be understood as changes of following loops. The following designs are preferred (alternatively or additionally):
The loops of a gradient coil for the X-gradient comprising two sets of contrarotating loops adjacent in X-direction, preferably wherein the radius of a set of loops increases, with the outer conductors in X-direction (the front and the back side) essentially remaining at the sides of the gradient coil. This means that the shape of such coil reminds one of a butterfly.

[0042] The loops of a gradient coil for the Y-gradient comprising two sets of contrarotating loops adjacent in Y-direction, preferably wherein the radius of a set of loops increases, with the outer conductors in Y-direction essentially remaining at the sides of the gradient coil (the sides perpendicular to the front and the back side). This means that the coil may look as the coil for the X gradient only rotated 90°.

[0043] The loops of a gradient coil for the Z-gradient comprising a set of increasing loops, preferably wherein the center of the loops essentially remain in the center of the gradient coil. This means that the coils may be coaxial but growing bigger, at least in X-direction.

[0044] In the following, more preferred special designs of coils are described. This special design results in a field that increases in the direction of the mouth of a V-shape (to the front side) of the gradient system.

[0045] Regarding the gradient coil for the X-gradient, the distance of the field-relevant conductors of a set of loops steadily decreases at least in the direction of the aperture of the V-shape (in direction to the front side) of the gradient system. The field relevant conductors are these part of the loops that determine the magnetic field of a gradient.

[0046] Regarding the gradient coil for the Z-gradient, the distance of the field-relevant conductors of a set of loops steadily decreases at least in the direction of the aperture of the V-shape (in direction to the front side) of the gradient system.

[0047] Regarding the gradient coil for the Y-gradient, the radius of a set of loops increases in X-direction as well as in Y-direction with the outer conductors at the aperture of the V-shape essentially remaining at the side of the aperture (i.e. at the front side) as well as at the sides perpendicular to the front side.

[0048] Various hardware or software tools can be used to further fine-tune these wire patterns in order to meet some additional constrains such as the gradient linearity, to reduce the stray fields, the amplitude of mechanical vibrations and the level of acoustic noise or peripheral nerve stimulation.

[0049] Special loop-shaping as described may eliminate non-linear components along the X-axis for the X and the Z gradient coils by modifying the wire spacing along the X-axis from a constant one to a more quadratic one, with the wire density increasing approximatively quadratically with the radial distance to the axis of symmetry (e.g. of a toroid basic magnet). For the Y gradient coils an exemplary solution adds an additional wire distribution having constant spacing along the X-axis. This is similar to the wire patterns for the magnet coil used for generating the static magnetic field B0.

[0050] A preferred method has the additional advantageous effect that it can be used for compensating stray magnetic fields in a magnetic resonance imaging system with two or more examination areas. The preferred method comprises the following steps:
  • providing a value for a predefined gradient field to be applied in a first examination area, in addition to a basic magnetic field,
  • providing a predefined sequence control pulse to be applied in a second examination area (especially adjacent to the first examination area, since the effect is strongest in adjacent areas),
  • determining a stray magnetic field in the second examination area in the case the gradient field is applied in the first examination area,
  • calculating a compensated sequence control pulse for the second examination area from the predefined sequence control pulse and the determined stray magnetic field, wherein the compensated sequence control pulse is calculated such that a measurement in the second examination area can be performed despite the stray field,
  • applying the compensated sequence control pulse to the second examination area and
  • preferably repeating these steps for a further examination area, especially for all examination areas.


[0051] The value for the gradient field that is used to be applied in the first examination area is well known. When applied in the first examination area, this gradient field produces stray fields in the other examination area(s).

[0052] The stray fields affect measurements in a second examination area. If the second examination area is adjacent the first examination area (wherein this case is preferred, since the stray field is strongest in adjacent areas), the disturbance of a measurement by the stray magnetic field is grave. For a measurement, a predefined sequence control pulse is applied in the second examination area, wherein this predefined sequence control pulse is preferably a predefined second gradient field. Since the stray field affects a measurement with this sequence control pulse, this sequence control pulse is adjusted to the stray field with the following steps.

[0053] The information defining a predefined sequence control pulse are data about the strength and the direction of the sequence control pulse. Since in an MRI system there are defined gradient magnet coils, the data may comprise information about a signal-amplitude or a current and the coil or antenna where this signal is to be applied.

[0054] It should be noted that in all examination areas of the MRI system the influences of stray magnetic fields should be compensated. Thus, preferably values for predefined sequence control pulses of all examination areas should be provided and the method should be performed on all examination areas while regarding any examination area as first area and any other examination area as second examination area.

[0055] Before, during or after providing any information about a predefined sequence control pulse, there is determined the stray magnetic field in the second examination area, e.g. its direction and its strength (magnetic field vector). This is the stray magnetic field of the gradient field. This step can be achieved by calculating or by measuring the stray magnetic field.

[0056] For example, the gradient field could be applied in the first examination area and the stray magnetic field can be measured in the second examination area (e.g. for different currents inducing the gradient field). The measured values can be stored and used for the determination of the stray magnetic field in the second examination area for the case that the gradient field is applied in the first examination area (with a predefined current). However, if the properties of the MRI-scanner are well known, the magnetic field can also be calculated (e.g. in a simulation). Last, for a group of identical MRI-scanners, a set of stored values can be used for the determination.

[0057] Using the determined stray magnetic field, and the provided (predefined) sequence control pulse, a compensated sequence control pulse can be calculated for the second examination area. This compensated sequence control pulse can be determined directly, or a correction term can be calculated and added to / subtracted from the predefined sequence control pulse. Since the direction of the predefined sequence control pulse and the stray field may be important, it is preferred to calculate a resulting compensated vector from a vector representing the predefined sequence control pulse and a correction vector (based on the stray field).

[0058] After that, the compensated sequence control pulse is applied to the second examination area. This application is well known and the compensated sequence control pulse is applied instead of the predefined sequence control pulse.

[0059] This inventive solution allows an active compensation of the stray gradient fields at least in the first order. With his compensation it is possible to simultaneously and independently acquire images in different examination areas, wherein in each examination area there may operate a dedicated three-axis gradient system. A compensation of stray fields up to the first order is good enough if the target field of view is not too large and the active shielding of the gradient coils is reasonably effective. Nevertheless, this method can be extended to correct for higher order stray fields. This would preferably require a set of dynamic higher-order shim coils and associated coil current amplifiers, and correspondingly a larger sensitivity matrix to invert. The higher order compensation is explained further below.

[0060] Although the invention is very advantageous for star-shaped magnet arrangements, it is also advantageous for other MRT-systems with e.g. a linear arrangement of examination areas or an arrangement of "satellite examination areas" using the basic magnetic field of a central examination area.

[0061] According to a preferred magnetic resonance imaging system, the magnetic resonance imaging system is designed such that the gradient systems in an examination area, preferably in each examination area, operates asynchronously and/or independent of the gradient system in another examination area of the magnetic resonance imaging system.

[0062] Preferably, the gradient system comprises a central control unit that is designed to coordinate all gradient activities, preferably the independent operation of different gradient systems, especially even the minimization and/or the correction of cross-interference terms between the gradient systems. The term "working independently" means that the MR sequences running in the examination regions are not necessarily identical or synchronized or interleaved.

[0063] The magnet architecture according to the invention comprises the advantage that especially in combination with a toroidal magnet having a relatively weak stray magnetic field outside the torus, the gradient coils are acoustically quiet. This results by the fact that unlike the prior art that places the gradient coils in regions of strong magnetic field, the new solution exposes the wires of the gradient coils at significantly weaker static magnetic field, i.e. actually only to the stray field. As a result, the Faraday forces acting upon these wires operated by strong currents pulses are significantly lower, therewith the mechanical vibrations and the resulted acoustic noise are of much lower amplitudes.

[0064] In addition, it is advantageous that the size of the coils of the gradient system is not restricted anymore, therefore it is possible to implement gradient coils for all three coordinate axes as well as further coils generating non-linear encoding fields or dynamic field cycling coils for multi-dimensional spatial signal encoding and accelerated signal acquisition.

[0065] Other objects and features of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed descriptions considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood, however, that the drawings are designed solely for the purposes of illustration and not as a definition of the limits of the invention.

Figure 1 shows a simplified MRI system of the state of the art.

Figure 2 shows a simplified C-shaped MRI scanner of the state of the art.

Figure 3 shows an examination in a C-shaped MRI scanner of the state of the art.

Figure 4 shows the arrangement of a RF coil in a basic magnetic field according to the state of the art.

Figure 5 shows the field of a exemplary pair of z-gradient coils.

Figure 6 shows an arrangement of gradient coils according to the invention.

Figure 7 shows an arrangement of gradient coils according to the invention.

Figure 8 shows an arrangement of a gradient system according to the invention with an open basic field magnet.

Figure 9 shows an arrangement of a movable gradient system according to the invention.

Figure 10 shows an arrangement of a gradient system according to the invention combined with the yoke of a basic field magnet.

Figure 11 shows a star shaped basic field magnet arrangement with a gradient system according to the invention.

Figure 12 shows the basic field magnet arrangement with the gradient system of figure 11 seen from above.



[0066] In the diagrams, like numbers refer to like objects throughout. Objects in the diagrams are not necessarily drawn to scale.

[0067] Figure 1 shows a schematic representation of a magnetic resonance imaging system 1 ("MRI-system"). The MRI system 1 includes the actual magnetic resonance scanner (data acquisition unit) 2 with an examination space 3 or patient tunnel in which a patient or test person is positioned on a driven bed 8, in whose body the actual examination object O is located.

[0068] The magnetic resonance scanner 2 is typically equipped with a basic field magnet system 4, a gradient system 6 as well as an RF transmission antenna system 5 and an RF reception antenna system 7. In the shown exemplary embodiment, the RF transmission antenna system 5 is a whole-body coil permanently installed in the magnetic resonance scanner 2, in contrast to which the RF reception antenna system 7 is formed as local coils (symbolized here by only a single local coil) to be arranged on the patient or test subject. In principle, however, the whole-body coil can also be used as an RF reception antenna system, and the local coils can respectively be switched into different operating modes.

[0069] The basic field magnet system is designed in a typical manner so that it generates a basic magnetic field in the longitudinal direction of the patient, i.e. along the longitudinal axis of the magnetic resonance scanner 2 that proceeds in the z-direction. The gradient system 6 typically includes individually controllable gradient coils 6x, 6y, 6z, (see following figures) in order to be able to switch (activate) gradients in the x-direction, y-direction or z-direction independently of one another.

[0070] The MRI system 1 shown here is a whole-body system with a patient tunnel into which a patient can be completely introduced. However, in principle the invention can also be used at other MRI systems, for example with a laterally open, C-shaped housing, as well as in smaller magnetic resonance scanners in which only one body part can be positioned.

[0071] Furthermore, the MRI system 1 has a central control device 13 that is used to control the MRI system 1. This central control device 13 includes a sequence control unit 14 for measurement sequence control. With this sequence control unit 14, the series of radio-frequency pulses (RF pulses) and gradient pulses can be controlled depending on a selected pulse sequence.

[0072] To output the individual RF pulses of a pulse sequence, the central control device 13 has a radio-frequency transmission device 15 that generates and amplifies the RF pulses and feeds them into the RF transmission antenna system 5 via a suitable interface (not shown in detail). To control the gradient coils of the gradient system 6, the control device 13 has a gradient system interface 16. The sequence control unit 14 communicates in a suitable manner with the radio-frequency transmission device 15 and the gradient system interface 16 to emit the pulse sequence.

[0073] Moreover, the control device 13 has a radio-frequency reception device 17 (likewise communicating with the sequence control unit 14 in a suitable manner) in order to acquire magnetic resonance signals (i.e. raw data) for the individual measurements, which magnetic resonance signals are received in a coordinated manner from the RF reception antenna system 7 within the scope of the pulse sequence.

[0074] A reconstruction unit 18 receives the acquired raw data and reconstructs magnetic resonance image data therefrom for the measurements. This reconstruction is typically performed on the basis of parameters that may be specified in the respective measurement or control protocol. For example, the image data can then be stored in a memory 19.

[0075] Operation of the central control device 13 can take place via a terminal 10 with an input unit and a display unit 9, via which the entire MRI system 1 can thus also be operated by an operator. MR images can also be displayed at the display unit 9, and measurements can be planned and started by means of the input unit (possibly in combination with the display unit 9), and in particular suitable control protocols can be selected (and possibly modified) with suitable series of pulse sequence PS as explained above.

[0076] The MRI system 1, can have a number of additional components that are not shown in detail but are typically present at such systems, for example a network interface in order to connect the entire system with a network and be able to exchange raw data and/or image data or, respectively, parameter maps, but also additional data (for example patient-relevant data or control protocols).

[0077] The manner by which suitable raw data are acquired by radiation of RF pulses and the generation of gradient fields, and MR images are reconstructed from the raw data, is known to those skilled in the art and thus need not be explained in detail herein.

[0078] Figure 2 shows a simplified C-shaped MRI scanner 2 of the state of the art. The general setup of a respective MRI-system is similar to figure 1 with the difference that the scanner 2 now comprises a C-shaped basic field magnet 4 as shown in this figure. A theoretical coordinate system is shown, where the z-axis points in the direction of the basic magnetic field B0 and the x- and y- axis are perpendicular to another and both perpendicular to the z-axis.

[0079] A body part of a patient (see e.g. figure 3) is arranged in the gap between the two magnet shoes 4a of the basic field magnet 4. The patient may lie on the bed 8 or stand upright as it may be derived from figure 3.

[0080] Figure 3 shows an examination in a C-shaped basic field magnet 4 of an MRI scanner 2 (see e.g. figure 2) of the state of the art. The scanner architecture uses a planar V-shaped gradient system 6.

[0081] This solution seriously limits the space available for fitting the gradient system 6 inside the torus of the basic field magnet 4 in the line of its magnet coils 4b and the acoustic noise level is high. In addition, since the gradient system 6 is arranged very close to the field-of-view (FOV) and the size of the gradient system 6 is restricted by the need to keep the magnet size as small as possible, a problem results with the attainable linearity of the gradient fields over the extension of the imaging region containing the dental arches: either the maxilla, or the mandibula or both.

[0082] Figure 4 shows the arrangement of an RF coil in a basic magnetic field B0 according to the state of the art (see also figure 1). An object O to be examined is surrounded by the coil of the RF transmission antenna system 5 that is also used as RF reception antenna system 7. RF signals are defined by the sequence control unit 14 and applied by the radio-frequency transmission device 15. The resulting signals to be measured are recorded by the radio-frequency reception device 17 and reconstructed by the reconstruction unit 18.

[0083] Figure 5 shows the gradient field G of pair of exemplary Z-gradient coils 6z. The local magnetic field direction is shown by arrows, whilst the field strength is represented by the size of these arrows. It is evident that the Maxwell laws of physics prohibit the achievement of ideal parallel and linear gradient fields, especially within those spatial regions located very close to the gradient coils 6z.

[0084] Figure 6 shows an arrangement of gradient coils 6z according to the invention. Around the magnet shoes 4a of a C-shaped basic field magnet 4 (see e.g. figure 2) a pair of gradient coils 6z is arranged. Between the two gradient coils 6z a gradient field G is shown that is effective along the Z-axis z, wherein the direction and strength is indicated with arrows. By looking more exactly at the field its field strength distribution would not be exactly linear but containing Maxwell and high-order, non-linear terms as depicted in figure 5.

[0085] Since the gradient coils 6z are arranged outside the basic magnetic field between the two magnet shoes 4, there will be a strongly reduced noise emission that can be diminished below hearing threshold depending on the arrangement of the gradient coils 6z outside the basic magnetic field.

[0086] Figure 7 shows an arrangement of gradient coils according to the invention. The gradient coils 6x are arranged outside the basic magnetic field similar to figure 6 with the only difference that the two gradient coils 6z produce a gradient field G (indicated with arrows) that is effective along the x-axis x.

[0087] If the arrangement would be turned for 90° around the z-axis z, the gradient coils would produce a gradient field that is effective along the y-axis y.

[0088] Figure 8 shows an arrangement of a gradient system 6 according to the invention with an open basic field magnet 4. The gradient coil pairs of the gradient system 6, especially for generating gradient fields for all three axes x, y, z are arranged outside the basic magnetic field B0 of the basic field magnet 4. This has the main benefit that the linearity of the generated magnetic gradient fields can be maximized at least inside the examination area E (respective inside the FOV), whilst the geometry of the magnet can be optimized to fit the target anatomy. Thereby the size and finally the cost for the basic field magnet 4 can be significantly reduced for the same spatial extension of the examination area E. In addition, noise emission is also seriously reduced.

[0089] The gradient system 6 uses a pair of planar gradient coils preferably in a parallel arrangement. A parallel coil arrangement compared to a V-shaped arrangement is here an advantageous architecture that achieves a better linearity of the gradient fields given relaxed design restrictions. These degrees of freedom can be further leveraged for minimizing the peripheral nerve stimulation effects and the generation of undesired eddy currents.

[0090] Figure 9 shows an arrangement of a movable gradient system 6 according to the invention. The gradient system uses planar gradient coils, while here no basic field magnet is shown due to a clearer picture. An arrangement of a basic field magnet 4 as shown in figure 8 can be imagined here.

[0091] The gradient coil pairs of the gradient system 6 are placed symmetrically as related to the examination area E and at a distance therefrom. In the particular case of dental imaging this solution allows for the patient head as examination object O to fit inside the space in between the coils of the gradient system 6.

[0092] In the shown advantageous geometry, the gradient coils are held by a positioning unit 20 comprising a forked actuator arm 21 with a motor 22 at the end of the forks, where the coils of the gradient system 6 are mounted such that they can be rotated at an angle around the z-axis z. Preferably, the coils of the gradient system can also be shifted to each other along the Z-axis z. This allows to fit the gradient system 6 closer to the head and to avoid mechanical collisions with the patient shoulders.

[0093] Preferably, the gradient coils are mechanically decoupled from the magnet and can be independently lifted-out by the actuator arm 21 during the non-imaging time and relocated away from the patient body. This approach further improves the access to the patient for the medical staff, as it may be often required for operative or non-operative dentistry or orthopedic procedures. The actuator arm (21) could be made of a soft magnetic material of high magnetic permeability to act as a yoke for the gradient fields. This will increase the efficiency of the gradient coils, reducing the peak currents, the heat development and the size and costs of the gradient system 6.

[0094] Figure 10 shows an arrangement of a gradient system 6 according to the invention combined with the yoke 4c of a basic field magnet 4. A basic field magnet 4 with a basic field magnet coil 4b in the middle of a C-shaped yoke 4c is equipped with a gradient system 6 outside the basic magnetic field B0. As well the basic field magnet coil 4b as the gradient system 6 use this iron yoke 4c to guide the magnetic flux lines toward the examination area E. The basic magnetic field B0 is generated by the current flowing into the basic field magnet coil 4b. The coils of the gradient system 6 reuse the same iron yoke 4c to efficiently guide and concentrate the gradient magnetic fields into the examination area E.

[0095] Figure 11 shows a star shaped basic field magnet 4 arrangement with a gradient system 6 arranged outside the area where the basic magnetic field is applied during an examination. To be more precise about the expression "outside", the coils of the gradient system 6 are arranged such that they are positioned in an area of significantly reduced magnetic field (stray field area) so that they are technically arranged outside the basic magnetic field that is used for examination.

[0096] A resulting magnetic resonance imaging system 1 would comprise here up to six examination areas E each equipped with a gradient system 6. The star-shaped arrangement of the coils of the basic field magnet 4 results in a toroidal basic magnetic field.

[0097] Figure 12 is a sketch showing the device of figure 11 from above with two gradient fields G applied (dashed lines).

[0098] For an easy access of patients, the coils of the gradients can be arranged pivotably, so that they could open like doors to the examination areas. This has the advantage that the gradient system 6 could be used as blinds, as well.

[0099] The invention and embodiments can also be described as:
  1. 1. A magnet system for a magnetic resonance imaging system 1 comprising a basic field magnet 4 and a gradient system 6, wherein coils of the gradient system 6 are positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field B0 of the basic field magnet 4.
  2. 2. The magnet system according to bullet point 1, wherein the coils positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field B0 of the basic field magnet 4 are gradient coils 6x, 6z, especially gradient coils 6x, 6z for all three coordinate axes x, y, z, and preferably shim coils and/or coils generating non-linear encoding fields and/or dynamic field cycling coils for multi-dimensional spatial signal encoding and accelerated signal acquisition.
  3. 3. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the basic field magnet 4 is a C-shaped magnet and coils of the gradient system 6 are arranged in the region of a pole shoe 4a of the basic field magnet 4 or such that the pole shoes 4a of the basic field magnet 4 lie between two coils of the gradient system 6.
  4. 4. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the basic field magnet 4 has a toroidal field distribution and preferably two or more examination areas E, preferably wherein the basic field magnet coils 4b are arranged in a star shape.
  5. 5. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the basic field magnet 4 comprises a magnet yoke 4c and coils of the gradient system 6 are arranged such that their field couples into the magnet yoke 4c,
    preferably wherein the distance between the magnet yoke 4c and each of the respective coils of the gradient system 6 is less than 2 cm, particularly preferably wherein the respective coils are in contact with the magnet yoke 4c.
  6. 6. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the coils of the gradient system 6 are planar coils preferably in a parallel arrangement.
  7. 7. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the coils of the gradient system 6 are placed symmetrically related to an examination area E inside the predefined basic magnetic field B0 of the basic field magnet 4.
  8. 8. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein coils of the gradient system 6 are mechanically decoupled from the basic field magnet 4,
    preferably wherein the coils are movable relative to the basic field magnet 4, especially by an actuator arm 20.
  9. 9. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the basic field magnet 4 is arranged between coils of the gradient system 6, wherein the distance between these coils is preferably larger than the dimensions of the basic field magnet 4.
  10. 10. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the basic field magnet 4 is shaped such that it fits the target anatomy, preferably wherein the basic field magnet 4 is shaped like an open segment of a torus or cylinder for examination of extremities or shaped like a bicycle seat or a saddle for prostate exams.
  11. 11. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the gradient system 6 comprises a cooling system that is also arranged outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field B0 of the basic field magnet 4.
  12. 12. The magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, wherein the coils of the gradient system 6 are arranged in a pivotable way, especially such that that they can be moved like a door, preferably wherein the coils of the gradient system 6 are planar coils and especially comprising a full faced cover so that they are designed to act as a blind.
  13. 13. A gradient system 6 for a magnet system according to one of the preceding bullet points, comprising coils of the gradient system 6 that are designed to be arranged outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field B0 of a basic field magnet 4.
  14. 14. A magnetic resonance imaging system 1 comprising a magnet system according to one of the bullet points 1 to 12.
  15. 15. The magnetic resonance imaging system designed for examining the head and/or the prostate and/or extremities and/or animals and/or neonates, preferably designed for dental imaging and/or designed for an examination of a body part of the group comprising brain, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle, knee, breast and prostate of a patient.


[0100] Although the present invention has been disclosed in the form of preferred embodiments and variations thereon, it will be understood that numerous additional modifications and variations could be made thereto without departing from the scope of the invention. For the sake of clarity, it is to be understood that the use of "a" or "an" throughout this application does not exclude a plurality, and "comprising" does not exclude other steps or elements. The mention of a "unit" or a "device" does not preclude the use of more than one unit or device.


Claims

1. A magnet system for a magnetic resonance imaging system (1) comprising a basic field magnet (4) and a gradient system (6), wherein coils of the gradient system (6) are positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field (B0) of the basic field magnet (4), wherein coils of the gradient system (6) are mechanically decoupled from the basic field magnet (4), wherein the basic field magnet (4) is shaped such that it fits the target anatomy, wherein the basic field magnet (4) is shaped like an open segment of a torus or cylinder for examination of extremities or shaped like a bicycle seat or a saddle for prostate exams.
 
2. The magnet system according to claim 1, wherein the coils positioned outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field (B0) of the basic field magnet (4) are gradient coils (6x, 6z) for all three coordinate axes (x, y, z), shim coils and/or coils generating non-linear encoding fields and/or dynamic field cycling coils for multi-dimensional spatial signal encoding and accelerated signal acquisition.
 
3. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the basic field magnet (4) is a C-shaped magnet and coils of the gradient system (6) are arranged in the region of a pole shoe (4a) of the basic field magnet (4) or such that the pole shoes (4a) of the basic field magnet (4) lie between two coils of the gradient system (6).
 
4. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the basic field magnet (4) has a toroidal field distribution and preferably two or more examination areas (E), wherein the basic field magnet coils (4b) are arranged in a star shape.
 
5. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the basic field magnet (4) comprises a magnet yoke (4c) and coils of the gradient system (6) are arranged such that their field couples into the magnet yoke (4c), wherein the distance between the magnet yoke (4c) and each of the respective coils of the gradient system (6) is less than 2 cm, wherein the respective coils are in contact with the magnet yoke (4c).
 
6. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the coils of the gradient system (6) are planar coils in a parallel arrangement.
 
7. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the coils of the gradient system (6) are placed symmetrically related to an examination area (E) inside the predefined basic magnetic field (B0) of the basic field magnet (4).
 
8. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein coils of the gradient system (6) are mechanically decoupled from the basic field magnet (4),
wherein the coils are movable relative to the basic field magnet (4) by an actuator arm (20).
 
9. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the basic field magnet (4) is arranged between coils of the gradient system (6), wherein the distance between these coils is larger than the dimensions of the basic field magnet (4).
 
10. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the gradient system (6) comprises a cooling system that is also arranged outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field (B0) of the basic field magnet (4).
 
11. The magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the coils of the gradient system (6) are arranged in a pivotable way, wherein the coils of the gradient system (6) are planar coils and comprising a full faced cover so that they are designed to act as a blind.
 
12. A gradient system (6) for a magnet system according to one of the preceding claims, comprising coils of the gradient system (6) that are designed to be arranged outside the area of a predefined basic magnetic field (B0) of a basic field magnet (4).
 
13. A magnetic resonance imaging system (1) comprising a magnet system according to one of claim 1 to 11.
 
14. The magnetic resonance imaging system designed for examining the head and/or the prostate and/or extremities and/or animals and/or neonates, preferably designed for dental imaging and/or designed for an examination of a body part of the group comprising brain, wrist, elbow, foot, ankle, knee, breast and prostate of a patient.
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description