Hi, I’m Dr. Scholz.
A common question we get at the PCRI is related to these new very popular MRIs. What’s the difference between a 3 Tesla MRI and a 1.5 Tesla MRI with an endorectal coil?
Well, the answer is there may not be that big a difference except for the patient. Who wants an endorectal coil if you don’t need it? A 1.5 Tesla is not as powerful, and to enhance image quality to obtain the kind of image quality you can get with a 3 Tesla MRI you have to put a coil in the rectum, and this fairly large diameter device. Yes, it is uncomfortable. We’ve been so grateful for the advent of 3 Tesla MRIs and I can’t remember the last time we’ve ordered an endorectal coil.
The only time where 1.5 Tesla seems to be in order is in men that have had hip replacements. Turns out the image quality is improved in a lower magnetic field in men that have hip replacements.
So for men that are without hip replacements we always solicit images from centers that have 3 Tesla MRI, and the 1.5 Tesla usage, in our feeling, is outmoded and it really calls in to question the expertise of the center. If they’re trying to do quality MRI imagine why don’t they have a 3T?
Let me just close by saying that quality MRI imaging is not easy to achieve. One expert told me that the doctors that read these, the radiologists, need a thousand practice reads before they’re competent to accurately read these MRI images. So when you proceed on using one of these imaging methods to try and understand what’s going on in the prostate, and many patients are doing this because they’re able to avoid the random biopsy, it is very important to select a center of excellence that sees a large volume of prostate cases so you can be sure that the quality of the imaging is adequate.
When you come across centers that are offering 1.5 Tesla MRI for prostate cancer imaging, to me that suggests that center may not be fully up to speed with the latest technology. It’s probably prudent to seek out a different center that has 3T capabilities.