1.5 T vs 3.0 T

Last revised by Dr jith Tho on 1 Sep 2021

Comparing 1.5 T vs 3.0 T  (1.5 tesla vs 3.0 tesla) MRI systems identifies several differences; a 3 T system has

It is important to emphasize that in common with standard scientific unit notation, a space must always be inserted between the quantity and the unit symbol; therefore, 1.5 T and 3 T are correct. Conversely, 1.5T and 3T are incorrect, despite the latter usages often being seen in medical media and some radiology reports.

Theoretically, the signal is proportional to the square of the static field strength (B0), whereas noise increases linearly. This implies that, in a perfect system, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of a 3 T system would be twice as good as at 1.5 T. In reality, due to an increase in susceptibility effects in most tissues, the actual improvement is only in the 30-60% range (instead of 100%). With this increased SNR, the spatial resolution and/or acquisition time can be improved, depending on which is more important for the particular case.

The specific absorption rate (SAR) is defined as the amount of radiofrequency energy (joules) deposited in tissues (kg). The limit set by the FDA is an amount that results in an increase of 1-degree centigrade in any tissue 2. SAR is proportional to the static field (B0) squared, meaning that a 3 T system deposits four times as much energy within tissue as a 1.5 T system. Additionally, SAR is proportional to

  • pulse duration and length
  • pulse number
  • slice number
  • flip angle

The dependence of SAR on the flip angle results in a relatively large amount of energy deposition for standard spin-echo sequences since they use 90-degree flip angles. As a result, there is an increased use of gradient-echo sequences, which use smaller flip angles. Unfortunately, these latter sequences image T2* and not T2, and are therefore more susceptible to local field artifacts. These problems have largely been overcome with modern units.

Rapid gradient switching leads to an increase in the intensity of the acoustic noise, which requires better insulation of both the unit itself and the containing room.

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: 3 T vs 1.5 T MRI prostate with total hip prosthesis
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  • Case 2: Normal prostate gland (3 T T2WI)
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  • Case 3: Normal wrist - 3 T MRI
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  • Case 4: Normal lumbar spine MRI: 3 T
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  • Case 5: Normal MRI whole spine: 3 T
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