The 7 Tesla MRI is lowered by crane into the Hale Building of Transformative Medicine in this 2017 photo.

A 7 Tesla (7T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, added to the Brigham’s suite of imaging technologies last year, received federal and state approvals for clinical use and become available for patient care as of Sept. 10. Availability of this new technology provides clinicians and patients with an advanced diagnostic imaging tool that is more than double the strength of a conventional high-field scanner.

Part of a new generation of ultra-high field instruments, the 7T MRI at BWH is the second in the country to be approved for clinical use and can now be fully integrated into the MRI program at the Brigham, focusing on world-class research and advanced patient care.

Weighing almost 25 tons, the 7T was lowered by crane into the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine (BTM) when it arrived at BWH in May 2017. The system’s superior field strength and advanced electronics provide a stronger signal used to generate higher-resolution images that offer advanced clinical insights into neurologic diseases, including multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, and musculoskeletal conditions that involve the cartilage, muscle and fascia of the knee joint. Initially used for research, the 7T has allowed BWH researchers to identify lesions in 38 percent of epilepsy patients that were not readily discernible on high-quality 3 Tesla MRI scans.

“Clinicians who see patients with neurological conditions for the brain – such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, epilepsy, cerebrovascular diseases and traumatic brain injury – will be able to capture details about these diseases and address clinical questions that current, lower-field magnets have not fully answered,” said Srinivasan Mukundan Jr., PhD, MD, medical director of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Department of Radiology.

Added James D. Kang, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery: “The 7T will allow orthopaedic surgeons to get a noninvasive, detailed picture of various structures within the knee that are often the source of pain and disability.”

Patients of the main campus ambulatory neuroscience and musculoskeletal clinics will be referred by their physicians for a scan using the 7T when it is clear that the advanced images will provide a clinically meaningful benefit. The amount that patients and their insurers are billed for diagnostic MRI examinations is the same regardless of the field strength of the MRI instrument.

“Our clinical deployment of the new 7T MRI scanner will be a resource for clinicians and researchers across our system, and we look forward to collaborations with our colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital,” said Giles Boland, MD, chair of Radiology. “Technical expertise developed over the past decade by MGH researchers working with the first 7T MRI system located at their Charlestown Naval Yard facility will help facilitate clinical translation at BWH. Likewise, clinical advances made at the Brigham will inform research efforts.”