Due to the high noise emission generated by the gradients in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), an efficient method of noise protection is mandatory. In addition to providing hearing protection, appropriate headphone systems also serve to facilitate communication between the operator and the patient. However, in combined PET-MR devices, use of common pneumatic headphones, as delivered by the manufacturer, is problematic due to the potential generation of attenuation artefacts in the PET measurement. Furthermore, modern multichannel head coils rarely provide space for conventional headphones. This work presents an alternative system, which aims to address these limitations while still being appropriate for both patient noise protection and communication in PET-MR.
Material and methods
As an alternative to the standard headphones supplied with the PET-MR (3T MR-BrainPET, Siemens), the possibility of using earphones built out of commercially available earplugs has been investigated. The air channel (E-A-RLink) of the earplug is connected to the tubes of the original headphones. The attenuation characteristics of the conventional headphones and of the modified earphones were measured using a dedicated PET system with a 68Ge transmission source. For this purpose, the headphones, and then the earphones, were attached to a non-radioactive head phantom. To investigate the influence of the different phones on PET emission images, measurements of the head phantom, filled with 18F solution, were performed in the PET-MR. A measurement of the head phantom without headphones or earphones was used as a reference.
The linear attenuation coefficient of the headphones was 0.11 cm-1 and that of the head phantom 0.10 cm-1. The earphones were not identifiable in the transmission image. The emission image showed an activity underestimation of 10% near the headphones, compared to the reference image, whereas the earphones did not affect the image. Communication with the patient via the earphones was successful, and the noise protection—as confirmed by investigated subjects—was satisfying.
The presented earphones, which can be connected to the existing patient communication system, are a preferable alternative to the conventional headphones, as, in contrast to the use of headphones, qualitative and quantitative errors in the PET images can be avoided. Patient acceptance of the earphones was high, despite the increase in preparation time before the PET-MR study.