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J Appl Clin Med Phys. 2012 Jul 5;13(4):3613. doi: 10.1120/jacmp.v13i4.3613.

Mechanisms and prevention of thermal injury from gamma radiosurgery headframes during 3T MR imaging.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is regularly used for stereotactic imaging of Gamma Knife (GK) radiosurgery patients for GK treatment planning. MRI-induced thermal injuries have occurred and been reported for GK patients with attached metallic headframes. Depending on the specific MR imaging and headframe conditions, a skin injury from MRI-induced heating can potentially occur where the four headframe screws contact the skin surface of the patient's head. Higher MR field strength has a greater heating potential. Two primary heating mechanisms, electromagnetic induction and the antenna effect, are possible. In this study, MRI-induced heating from a 3T clinical MRI scanner was investigated for stereotactic headframes used in gamma radiosurgery and neurosurgery. Using melons as head phantoms, optical thermometers were used to characterize the temperature profile at various points of the melon headframe composite as a function of two 3T MR pulse sequence protocols. Different combinations of GK radiosurgery headframe post and screw designs were tested to determine best and worst combinations for MRI-induced heating. Temperature increases were measured for all pulse sequences tested, indicating that the potential exists for MRI-induced skin heating and burns at the headframe attachment site. This heating originates with electromagnetic induction caused by the RF fields inducing current in a loop formed by the headframe, mounting screws, and the region of the patient's head located between any of the two screws. This induced current is then resistively dissipated, with the regions of highest resistance, located at the headframe screw-patient head interface, experiencing the most heating. Significant heating can be prevented by replacing the metallic threads holding the screw with electrically insulated nuts, which is the heating prevention and patient safety recommendation of the GK manufacturer. Our results confirm that the manufacturer's recommendation to use insulating nuts reduces the induced currents in the headframe nearly to zero, effectively preventing heating and minimizing the likelihood of thermal injury.

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