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By Alan Macy, BIOPAC Systems, Inc.

When recording physiological signals from subjects in MRI systems, two issues are very important:

  1. The MRI system incorporates a VERY strong magnetic field. It is extremely important that no significant magnetically susceptible objects are taken into the room that houses the MRI System.  All materials have some degree of magnetic susceptibility. However, materials with mass magnetic susceptibility values, similar to or have magnitude less than that of water (-0.91E-8 m^3/kg), are typically permitted to be used in the vicinity of MRI Systems. No electrodes, electrode leads, transducers or cabling, that contain significant magnetically susceptible components, should be used when recording data from a subject in the MRI.
  2. The MRI System both emits and records radio frequency (RF) energy. This energy is typically in the range of 5 to 500 MHz. For a 3T MRI, the characteristic proton precession frequency will be 3T * 42.7 MHz or 128.1 MHz.  MRI generated RF energy will, at least, partially reflect from encountered conductors and induce current flow in those conductors. Signal reflections and induced currents can disrupt sensitive imaging operations by creating signal artifacts. Also, RF induced currents, if not properly controlled, can cause local heating.

Care must be taken to limit the flow of RF energy both in and out of the room that houses the MRI. RF energy from the MRI superimposes with the very small biopotentials and transducer signals in the vicinity of the subject. Alternatively, RF energy from recording or other equipment in the MRI Control Room (e.g. digital clocks and power supply switching noise) can leak into the MRI chamber, via subject cabling, and cause degradation of the image created by the MRI. It can be complicated to record biopotentials, from a subject’s body, during an MRI scan. These signals are very tiny and the RF energy, and associated magnetic field shifting, generated by the MRI corrupts the recording. Accordingly, successful biopotential recording in the MRI involves the use of specialized amplifiers, optimized cabling, patch-panel filtering, advanced signal processing and/or synchronization with MRI scanning processes to perform clean measurements.

When RF energy is pulsed into the subject, this energy spreads throughout the subject because the subject is a volume conductor. As the MRI magnetic gradient shifts in synchrony with RF energy pulsing, the gradient shift induces a current flow in conductors that intersect with the field. From a practical standpoint, RF energy pulsing and gradient-induced current flows often manifest themselves as repetitive artifact signals directly in the band of the physiological generated biopotentials. This is because RF energy pulsing and magnetic field gradient switching are performed synchronously for imaging and the repetition rates for image slice generation usually fall within the range of 1-100 Hz. Depending upon the biopotential frequency range (from lowest to highest: EGG, EOG, ECG, EEG and EMG), different amplification and signal processing techniques can be used to isolate the signal of interest. Furthermore, it’s often helpful to control imaging processes so that the MRI artifact signal spectrum does not unduly impact the measured physiological signal spectrum.

For more information on BIOPAC’s MR Safe and MR Conditional solutions, visit BIOPAC’s MRI page or view BIOPAC’s full line of electrodes, amplifiers, and wearable, wireless transmitters and loggers.

Download a related and important application note that describes the relationship between MRI imaging sequences and associated physiological measurements, when subjects are monitored in the MRI. In particular, this note addresses newfound insights on the impact that imaging sequence types have upon simultaneously recorded electrocardiography (ECG) and impedance cardiography (ICG) subject measurements.

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