First reduced-helium MRI scanner arrives in the UK

Siemens machine will allow research outside of hospital settings

Published: 19 August 2022 MRI

King’s College London is to begin virtually helium-free MRI research with the delivery of the first MAGNETOM Free.Max scanner in the UK to the King’s Advanced MRI Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital.

The reduced-helium scanner allows the King’s team to evaluate this type of MRI for use outside of a traditional hospital setting, while also using a lower field strength, expanding the scope of research into cardiac, respiratory, and foetal brain development imaging that was previously not possible.

Unlike conventional MRI systems, the MAGNETOM Free.Max requires less than one litre of liquid helium for cooling, an increasingly scarce resource, eliminating the need for a quench pipe which is otherwise used to safely and quickly expel helium out of a scanner in case of an emergency.

The virtually helium-free MRI scanner radically reduces infrastructure requirements, enabling it to be installed in community-based settings.

“The MAGNETOM Free.Max from Siemens Healthineers is a welcome addition to King’s College London as we seek to evaluate how this kind of MRI might perform outside of a hospital setting, and expand the scope of our imaging research with a lower field strength,” said Dr Sharon Giles, director of clinical & research imaging operations, School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences at King’s College London.

“Community diagnostic centres are the setting we’re trying to simulate here with the MAGNETOM Free.Max. Whilst the system is currently used in a hospital setting, its less demanding infrastructure requirements means it could be implemented into community settings, increasing MRI accessibility for patients.”