X-rays and MRIs are the current gold standards for diagnosing breast cancer, but the former can pose radiation Design of the flexible coil array shown in bent (left) and flat (right) configurations. Source: Medical University of ViennaDesign of the flexible coil array shown in bent (left) and flat (right) configurations. Source: Medical University of Viennarisks while the latter can prove cost- and time-intensive. Patient positioning in an MRI scanner also requires use of one-size-fits-all cups housing radio frequency coils in a procedure that may not prove equally accurate for all body shapes. A wearable form of MRI device with flexible imaging coils is under development to improve precision and patient comfort during examinations.

The waistcoat being engineered at the Medical University of Vienna includes 32 radio frequency coils sewn into the fabric. Each 8 cm long (3.1 in) loop hook is coupled to a radio receiver unit by way of coaxial cables, while motion sensors are also built into the vest so the system can cancel out breathing movements that can distort the image.

The diagnostic device is worn as the patient is placed on her back instead of being placed face-down as in an MRI machine. This positioning flattens the breast, bringing more of the tissue in proximity to the receiver to boost the signal and reduce exam time.

Phantom and in vivo tests with volunteers demonstrated the utility of the system in imaging the head, ankle, knee and shoulder. The waistcoat is still under development and is described in PLOS One.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com