Lack of computer models of the female body make it difficult for researchers to predict that a new MRI technique would be safe for all women's breast tissue. (Credit: Purdue University image/Xin Li)

Without a way to prove that a new MRI technique is safe for all women, clinical MRIs haven't been able to keep pace with the latest advances in MRI research. More informative cancer detection is possible with stronger magnetic fields that also, unfortunately, increase the risk of tissue heating during a screening.

Researchers have simulated how more than 20 different breast tissue ratios respond to heat given off by MRIs at higher field strengths than available in hospitals today. The simulations would allow cutting-edge MRI techniques to finally show that they meet safety limits. They demonstrated that a fivefold increase could still stay within FDA limits for most breast tissue ratios, even at 7 tesla. One hurdle was a lack of computer models of the female body. Researchers can test their techniques on computational phantoms, typically generated from MRI or CT image sets, before the techniques are clinically approved for using on people.

Researchers fused 36 breast phantoms at various densities, with the full body Hanako and Ella models. They then simulated the behavior of each fused phantom in response to MRI coils at 7 tesla. The simulations can help other researchers tailor their techniques to each woman's unique breast tissue ratio.

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