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Functional MRI in neonates using neonatal head coil and MR compatible incubator

Stephan G Erberich, Philippe Friedlich, Istvan Seri, Marvin D Nelson Jr. and Stefan Blüml; NeuroImage 20, 2003: p 683-692; © 2003 Elsevier Inc.


Structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging of the newborn brain is a complex and challenging task. Term and preterm neonates require a controlled microenvironment and close monitoring during the MRI study to maintain respiratory and cardiovascular functions, body temperature, and fluid and electrolyte homeostasis. In addition, to minimize motion artifacts, most neonates also need to be sedated, which carries the risk of respiratory depression compromising the neonate's ability to maintain appropriate ventilation and oxygenation during the procedure.

Finally, because of their small head size, the use of the standard MR head coils results in suboptimal picture quality in the neonate. Thus, these limitations affect our ability to obtain both high quality structural and functional MRI studies. To overcome these difficulties, we have utilized an MR compatible incubator with a built-in radiofrequency head coil optimized for the neonatal brain volume. In this study we demonstrate that functional MRI and high-resolution structural MRI of the newborn brain can be achieved with this novel design. The use of this equipment offers potential for studying the development of the preterm and term neonatal brain and obtaining state-of-the-art, high-resolution structural and functional imaging in this most vulnerable patient population.