Hello! This week I completed the data acquisition step and learned more about the MRI protocol at Mayo Clinic. I had the opportunity to visit Mayo's Phoenix campus, which has much more extensive facilities than the Scottsdale campus. Specifically, I went inside the new Mayo Clinic Cancer Center building, which houses the Proton Beam Therapy Program, the first proton beam therapy program in the Southwest. Notably, the center had 4 proton beam treatment rooms and several MRI, PET, and CT machines, including a PET/MRI machine, which is used to get better imaging results for metastatic cancer.
My main objective for going to the Phoenix campus was to learn about the MRI prostate exam protocol by observing an MRI prostate exam. Unfortunately, the prostate exam was abruptly cancelled, so I will have to postpone that until next week. Nevertheless, I gained a valuable experience from watching the MRI technicians administering other exams. The most significant difference between the MRI at the Phoenix campus (hospital) and the Scottsdale campus (clinic) is the greater image resolution at the Phoenix campus. Several of the Phoenix campus MRI machines had 3 Tesla magnets installed, meaning that the technicians could provide higher quality, clearer images for the radiologists. Since MRI on the prostate requires extremely high resolution, all MRI prostate exams are conducted at the Phoenix campus, meaning that I will probably be visiting the hospital more often in the future.
Besides familiarizing myself with the MRI process, I also learned more about how we can optimize the MRI prostate exam protocol. I can use algorithms to determine which image series (there are typically 4-6 of them per exam) are the most useful to the radiologists. I can also use convolutional neural networks (CNN) on the images, along with software such as MREX, to see what MR settings produce the best results. Image analysis can lead down an interesting path. Next week, I plan on meeting with Dr. Panda and Dr. Zhang in the physics lab to go over some new software and to implement some algorithms on my data set. I will also hopefully meet with Dr. Kawashima to discuss the metrics that I will be looking at, the prostate MRI exam protocol, and the significance of various MRI settings. One of the interesting things I learned this week is that the radiologists are switching the gadolinium contrast from Gadovist to Dotarem, because it is safer and provides better quality images.