Hyperpolarized 3-helium MR imaging of the lungs: testing the concept of a central production facility
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The aim of this study was to test the feasibility of a central production facility with distribution network for implementation of hyperpolarized 3-helium MRI. The 3-helium was hyperpolarized to 50–65% using a large-scale production facility based at a university in Germany. Using a specially designed transport box, containing a permanent low-field shielded magnet and dedicated iron-free glass cells, the hyperpolarized 3-helium gas was transported via airfreight to a university in the UK. At this location, the gas was used to perform in vivo MR experiments in normal volunteers and patients with chronic obstructive lung diseases. Following initial tests, the transport (road–air–road cargo) was successfully arranged on six occasions (approximately once per month). The duration of transport to imaging averaged 18 h (range 16–20 h), which was due mainly to organizational issues such as working times and flight connections. During the course of the project, polarization at imaging increased from 20% to more than 30%. A total of 4 healthy volunteers and 8 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were imaged. The feasibility of a central production facility for hyperpolarized 3-helium was demonstrated. This should enable a wider distribution of gas for this novel technology without the need for local start-up costs.
KeywordsMR imaging Ventilation studies Hyperpolarized 3-helium Chronic obstructive lung disease
Acknowledgements. The authors acknowledge support from the European Commission Framework 5 program (www.phil.ens.fr), The British Council Germany, and the DAAD. We also thank Lufthansa for their cooperation. The University of Copenhagen (T. Skavngaard, L. Vejby-Sogaard, and A. Dirksen) contributed to the discussions. This work was presented in part at ECR 2003.
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