November 6, 2023
November 6, 2023

3T vs 1.5T MRI: How Do They Compare?

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3T vs 1.5T MRI: How Do They Compare?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has transformed medical imaging. This non-invasive test produces high-quality images of the body's internal structures without using harmful ionizing radiation. Today, MRIs are the preferred method for diagnostic imaging of soft tissue structures like the brain, spinal cord, musculoskeletal system, small bones, liver, and pelvic area. They can also detect abnormalities in vascular structures such as blood vessels. 

As a patient, you may not realize that you actually have choices when it comes to the type of MRI technology that is used. Here, we’ll briefly review magnet strength and cover some of the differences between a 3T MRI scanner and a 1.5T MRI scanner. 

We’ll also highlight why a 3T vs. 1.5T MRI scanner may offer a better patient experience while also helping radiologists find abnormalities like cancer earlier due to better image quality.

Understanding the Term “Tesla” in MRI

The T in 3T stands for Tesla, named after the inventor Nikola Tesla. In the context of magnetic resonance imaging, a Tesla measures magnetic field strength. For clinical use, MRI machines typically range from less than 1T to 3T. For reference, a refrigerator magnet is about 0.001 T. In medical research, you can find ultra-high field (UHF) MRI scanners with 7T magnets or stronger.

3T vs 1.5T MRI Quality

1.5T MRI scanners are adequate and cost-effective, so they are most commonly used at hospitals and imaging centers. Most routine MRI exams can be performed on a 1.5T system.

With twice the magnetic field strength, a 3T MRI machine can provide more signal when compared to a 1.5T system. Having more signal means a 3T scanner can achieve higher spatial resolution, thus allowing it to be more sensitive to tiny lesions.

Ezra partner facilities only use 3T MRI scanners and abnormalities as small as 2mm have been found on the Ezra Full Body scan.

3T vs 1.5T MRI Speed

A 3T MRI machine can create high resolution images faster than a 1.5T system. Faster imaging means less time inside the scanner, making the exam more comfortable for the patient. 

Another benefit of a shorter scan time is reduced motion artifacts. The longer the scan time, the harder it is for someone to hold completely still. When a patient moves during their scan, it can cause the images to be blurry. These unclear images can make it more difficult or impossible for the radiologist to interpret those images accurately. This often leads to repeated imaging, which can cause additional discomfort and inconvenience for the patient. 

MRI Scan Safety: Implants and Tissue Heating

Many medical implants can be scanned safely with 3T systems, but certain implants are only safe up to 1.5T or are not safe to be scanned at all. It’s routine procedure for any imaging facility to review any/all medical implants prior to your MRI scan to ensure your safety.

Patients with tattoos, permanent makeup, and implanted metal or medical devices like pacemakers need to notify the imaging center and Ezra beforehand. MRI magnets may interfere with some of these devices or, as is the case with tattoos or permanent makeup, may cause burning of the skin.

All Ezra members are required to fill out a medical questionnaire during the sign-up process. The medical staff at Ezra reviews this questionnaire to ensure the member is safe to proceed with a 3T MRI scan. On the day of the scan, members are also screened by an MRI technologist onsite to verify their safety.

Like cell phones, MRI scanners expose you to radio waves. This radiofrequency energy can be absorbed by the body and cause tissue heating. SAR stands for specific absorption rate and it is the amount of energy from radio waves absorbed by your body's tissues.

With the 3T scanner being more powerful, it can cause higher SAR levels. MRI technologists monitor SAR to prevent any potential harm. All Ezra partner facilities use MRI scanners that have settings designed to limit SAR to safe levels. If unsafe levels were ever reached, the scanner will pause the exam to notify the technologist.

Why Does Ezra Use 3T MRI Scanners?

The Ezra Full Body protocol includes over 25 MRI sequences. A sequence is a set of images for a particular anatomic region. Those 25+ sequences result in over 1,000 images. 

A 3T MRI machine can reduce scan time while maintaining great image quality. Therefore, a 3T MRI scanner is required to maintain the desired resolution for an Ezra Full Body scan within 60 minutes. The current Ezra Full Body protocol acquired at 3T would be consistently higher in quality than if it was obtained at 1.5T in the same amount of time. 

What’s an Ezra Scan Experience Like?

The Ezra Scan uses a 3T MRI system equipped with a wide-bore design for more space, greatly enhancing patient comfort and reducing scan times. An Ezra Full Body Scan screens up to 13 organs for visible tumors and pre-cancer warning signs. You don’t need insurance and a referral will be provided by a licensed clinician when you’re approved for the scan. 

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect during your Ezra screening:

  • Be sure to complete your medical questionnaire by the date requested and arrive at your appointment at least 30 minutes early. When it’s time for your scan, a facility member will escort you to a dressing area where you can change into Ezra-provided PJs and slippers.

  • Before your MRI scan, ask the technologist any questions you have and listen carefully to all instructions. During your scan, you may be able to listen to music with special headphones. But be aware that your MRI technologist may also give you instructions during the scan.

  • The Ezra Full Body Scan usually takes less than 60 minutes in the 3T MRI machine. Once your results are ready, a clinician will follow up within 5-7 days. You may also opt for a telehealth appointment to review the findings and answer questions.

It's important to note that the Ezra Full Body and Full Body Plus scans may offer insights into the following areas, although this list may not encompass all potential findings.

  • Brain: The scan can detect potential brain masses, abnormal fluid collections, and signs of possible brain aging.
  • Spine: It can identify potential herniated discs, spinal cord compression, or vertebral fractures.
  • Lung: The low-dose CT scan offered in the Full Body Plus is sensitive enough to spot possible nodules as small as 1mm.
  • Gallbladder: The scan can highlight potential gallstones and gallbladder polyps.
  • Spleen: It can identify possible enlarged spleens and splenule (accessory spleen).
  • Adrenal Glands: The scan can detect potential adrenal nodules.
  • Ovaries: It can find potential ovarian cysts, polycystic ovaries, and endometriosis.
  • Thyroid: The scan is sensitive to potential thyroid nodules, thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation), and goiters.
  • Liver: It can spot potential liver masses, fatty liver disease, and iron overload.
  • Pancreas: The scan is equipped to detect possible early pancreatic tumors (known as intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms or IPMNs) and fatty pancreas.
  • Kidneys: It can spot potential kidney masses, hydronephrosis (urine blockage), nodules, and kidney stones.
  • Bladder: The scan can identify possible thickened bladders (trabeculation).
  • Uterus: It is designed to find potential fibroids.
  • Prostate: This scan may help detect potential prostate cancer and prostatitis (prostate inflammation) in men.

Be Proactive: Book an Ezra Full Body MRI Scan Today

3T vs 1.5T MRI: family preparing a healthy meal

In medical imaging, the choice between a 3T vs 1.5T MRI can make a difference to your healthcare experience. While both help detect multiple conditions, the 3T MRI stands out for reduced scan times. Ezra’s use of a 3T MRI scan may give you an edge in proactive health management thanks to its superior and detailed image quality.

You can easily book an appointment online for Ezra’s Full Body or Full Body Plus scan service in less than five minutes. Pricing is transparent and you can even use your health savings account (HSA), flexible savings account (FSA), or finance through Affirm for easy monthly payments.