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From strength to precision: A systematic review exploring the clinical utility of 7-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging in abdominal imaging.

BACKGROUND: After approval for clinical use in 2017 early investigations of ultra-high-field abdominal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have demonstrated the feasibility as well as diagnostic capabilities of liver, kidney, and prostate MRI at 7-Tesla. However, the elevation of the field strength to 7-Tesla not only brought advantages to abdominal MRI but also presented considerable challenges and drawbacks, primarily stemming from heightened artifacts and limitations in Specific Absorption Rate, etc. Furthermore, evidence in the literature is relatively scarce concerning human studies in comparison to phantom/animal studies which necessitates an investigation into the evidence so far in humans and summarizing all relevant evidence.

AIM: To offer a comprehensive overview of current literature on clinical abdominal 7T MRI that emphasizes current trends, details relevant challenges, and provides a concise set of potential solutions.

METHODS: This systematic review adheres to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. A PubMed search, utilizing Medical Subject Headings terms such as "7-Tesla" and organ-specific terms, was conducted for articles published between January 1, 1985, and July 25, 2023. Eligibility criteria included studies exploring 7T MRI for imaging human abdominal organs, encompassing various study types ( in-vivo / ex-vivo , method development, reviews/meta-analyses). Exclusion criteria involved animal studies and those lacking extractable data. Study selection involved initial identification via title/abstract, followed by a full-text review by two researchers, with discrepancies resolved through discussion. Data extraction covered publication details, study design, population, sample size, 7T MRI protocol, image characteristics, endpoints, and conclusions.

RESULTS: The systematic review included a total of 21 studies. The distribution of clinical 7T abdominal imaging studies revealed a predominant focus on the prostate ( n = 8), followed by the kidney ( n = 6) and the hepatobiliary system ( n = 5). Studies on these organs, and in the pancreas, demonstrated clear advantages at 7T. However, small bowel studies showed no significant improvements compared to traditional MRI at 1.5T. The majority of studies evaluated originated from Germany ( n = 10), followed by the Netherlands ( n = 5), the United States ( n = 5), Austria ( n = 2), the United Kingdom ( n = 1), and Italy ( n = 1).

CONCLUSION: Further increase of abdominal clinical MRI field strength to 7T demonstrated high imaging potential, yet also limitations mainly due to the inhomogeneous radiofrequency (RF) excitation field relative to lower field strengths. Hence, further optimization of dedicated RF coil elements and pulse sequences are expected to better optimize clinical imaging at high magnetic field strength.

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