I began in cardiac MRI around 1990 when it had an almost comically random quality if it hadn’t been so serious for some patients. It’s improved a great deal since. I can’t honestly say that had anything to do with me. A strength of the Royal Brompton Hospital cardiac MRI centre is that it does only cardiac MRI, whereas many centres try a few cardiac scans a week and become disillusioned. The leadership of Professor Longmore who established this centre was inspiring. Another strength was essential in the earlier days: we modified the MRI scanners to improve their speed and flexibility for cardiac uses. This led to a dedicated cardiac MRI lab built in an old double-decker coach (avoiding planning permission for a new building).
The physics of MRI is amazingly flexible if the electronics and software of the scanner is sufficiently open to modifications. On modern MRI systems we re-program how the images are acquired, to detect a range of different tissue properties. I remain most interested in the crazier forms of cardiac MRI (echo-planar imaging (EPI), spirals, locally selective imaging, hyperpolarized imaging) even if most busy clinicians understandably have no time for them. Otherwise I work on myocardial perfusion (almost the only excuse to use EPI in the heart) and blood flow imaging (especially real-time flow imaging) where cardiac MRI has much to offer but still sometimes has a bad reputation!
MRI-guidance of catheters using real-time imaging and real-time measurements of things like flow is in its infancy and might find some clinical uses eventually. Currently it is mainly animal work with very few medics brave enough to try it in humans. This field is also a chance to use the most interesting pulse sequences for rapid measurements. Unfortunately the drive to higher main field (3T) makes long-k-space paths more difficult and may limit interesting methods. This department contains many other projects for example in imaging the health of myocardium, its motion, coronary artery blood flow etc but is also a busy routine clinical cardiac MRI service.
We always seek interested students. Even if it is just for vacation or gap-year work, please contact the appropriate head of section (Physics Prof David Firmin or Medicine Prof Dudley Pennell).
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