Pre-clinical PET/MR: technological advances and new perspectives in biomedical research

  • Hans F. Wehrl
  • Martin S. Judenhofer
  • Stefan Wiehr
  • Bernd J. PichlerEmail author



Combined PET/MRI allows for multi-parametric imaging and reveals one or more functional processes simultaneously along with high-resolution morphology. Especially in small-animal research, where high soft tissue contrast is required, and the scan time as well as radiation dose are critical factors, the combination of PET and MRI would be beneficial compared with PET/CT.


In the mid-1990’s, several research groups used different approaches to integrate PET detectors into high-field MRI. First, systems were based on optical fibres guiding the scintillation light to the PMT’s, which reside outside the fringe magnetic field. Recent advances in gamma ray detector technology, which were initiated mainly by the advent of avalanche photodiodes (APD’s) as well as the routine availability of fast scintillation materials like lutetium oxyorthosilicate (LSO), paved the way towards the development of fully magnetic-field-insensitive high-performance PET detectors.


Current animal PET/MR technologies are reviewed and pitfalls when engineering a full integration of a PET and a high-field MRI are discussed. Compact PET detectors can be integrated in small-bore, high-field MRI tomographs. Detailed performance evaluations have shown that the mutual interference between the two imaging systems could be minimized. The performance of all major MR applications, ranging from T1- or T2-weighted imaging up to echo-planar imaging (EPI) for functional MRI (fMRI) or magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), could be maintained, even when the PET insert was built into the MRI and acquiring PET data simultaneously. Similarly, the PET system performance was not influenced by the static magnetic field or applied MRI sequences.


Initial biomedical research applications range from the combination of functional information from PET with the anatomical information from the MRI to multi-functional imaging combining metabollic PET and MRI data.


Compared to other multi-modality approaches PET/MR offers a multitude of complementary function and anatomical information. The ability to obtain simultaneous PET and MRI data with this new imaging modality could have tremendous impact on small animal imaging research.


PET MRI Combination Functional imaging Multi-modality Multi-functional imaging 


Conflict of interest statement

Bernd J Pichler is a consultant for Siemens Medical Solutions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans F. Wehrl
    • 1
  • Martin S. Judenhofer
    • 1
  • Stefan Wiehr
    • 1
  • Bernd J. Pichler
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Radiology, Laboratory for Preclinical Imaging and Imaging Technology of the Werner Siemens-FoundationUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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