Zipper artifact

Last revised by Connor C Gemmell on 16 Mar 2023

Zipper artifacts are a type of MRI artifact where one or more spurious bands of electronic noise extends across the image. There are various causes for zipper artifacts in images and no single solution exists.  

These artifacts can be related to hardware or software problems either of the scanner itself or the shielding.

A common cause is spurious radio-frequency signals contaminating received imaging data. In this instance, the direction in which the artifact is seen depends on the direction in which frequency is encoded and will appear at right angles to the frequency encoding direction. 

The result is an abnormal black and white signal band across the entire image corresponding to that frequency. If the signal is of only one frequency then only one band will occur. If multiple frequencies, then multiple bands will be present. 

Other equipment and software problems can cause similar zipper-like artifacts in either axis.

Causes and remedies

The zipper artifacts that can be controlled easily are those that occur when the door is open during the acquisition of images due to RF entering the scanning room from electronic equipment (e.g. mobile devices or aircraft) and are being picked by the receiver chain of imaging sub-systems.  

  • make sure the MR scanner room-door is shut during imaging

  • remove all electronic devices from the patient prior to imaging

  • if the artifact persists despite all nearby electronic equipment being turned off, it is possible that the RF shielding is compromised

    • this usually occurs at the contacts between the door and the jam and may need to be cleaned or repaired

    • the penetration panel where the cables enter the room is another site to be checked

Differential diagnosis

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