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It all began with a green pepper that Siemens developers used as a test object to verify the function of their first experimental magnetic resonance scanner. “A pepper is a good size to work on, there are lots of structures inside and it doesn’t move over a long measurement period,” explains Dr. Arnulf Oppelt. Oppelt made the very first Siemens MRI image together with Alexander Ganssen and other colleagues. The picture was taken in 1979 and it took several hours until it was complete. Four years later, it was possible to install the first MAGNETOM scanner with a superconducting 0.35 Tesla magnet in the U.S., due in no small part to a very patient green pepper. Naturally, this first MAGNETOM that was put into operation at the Mallinckrodt Institute in St. Louis was used to examine patients rather than vegetables.
Just under a year later, in June 1984, Siemens was given “pre-market approval“ for the MAGNETOM magnetic resonance scanner. An internal report on the meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in 1984 stated: “With the MAGNETOM, we are the only company to offer a complete system that meets all current requirements for an MRI system.”
MRT prototype tested in Hanover
After the start-up of an MRI prototype in January 1983 at the Medical University in Hanover, over 800 patients were examined in the clinical test environment. This project was one of a total of two MRT projects of Siemens AG funded by the Federal Ministry for Research and Technology. In April of the same year, a report on the MAGNETOM appeared for the first time in a press release: “Magnetic resonance tomograph comes of age,” ran the text. “The new magnetic resonance tomograph from Siemens known as the “MAGNETOM” displays axial, sagittal and coronary cross-sectional images from all regions of the body.”
The MAGNETOM conquers Germany …
The MAGNETOM was officially introduced in September 1983 at the European X-Ray Congress in Bordeaux. At the end of this month, the first series of MAGNETOM enters German private practices and hospitals, with a radiologist near Frankfurt am Main leading the way. The new MRI scanner was also the focal point of the European Congress for Cardiology in July the following year. As a press release at the time stated, “Siemens Medical Technology Group has delivered 40 ‘MAGNETOM’ magnetic resonance tomographs to date. Siemens is the only supplier in the world to manufacture the superconducting magnets itself.”
… and the rest of the world
Nearly 160 MAGNETOM systems had been sold worldwide by mid-1987, first and foremost in the U.S. “MAGNETOM magnetic resonance tomographs lead the field in Japan too” was how the news appeared when Siemens became the first manufacturer of MRI scanners in Japan to receive approval for 1.5-Tesla scanners. The report lauded the “innovative self-shielding system” which reduced the stray magnetic fields of the magnet. This consequently enabled the MAGNETOM to be installed in small rooms as well.
After that, technological progress moved at a rapid pace. In the 1980s, Siemens buildt the first 4Tesla whole body imaging magnets for research purposes. Superconducting magnets already allowed field strengths of 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 Tesla for clinical application. The first ECG triggering now became possible, which allowed the beating heart to be displayed. In 1985, Siemens presented a mobile MRI at the RSNA for the first time. A year later a MAGNETOM including complete operating equipment was mounted on a semitrailer truck and dispatched throughout the U.S. for deployment in smaller hospitals. The superconducting magnet weighed 6.5 metric tons and generated exceptionally strong, uniform magnetic fields.
More comfort for the patient
The success story of the MAGNETOM continued through the 1990s. The first open, C-shaped MRI scanner of Siemens, the MAGNETOM Open, came on the market in 1993. At the beginning of 2000, it had already become clear that a field strength of 3 Tesla marked the upper limit for routine clinical operation. The coil technology was revolutionized with Tim (total imaging matrix) and the image quality also improved continuously; gradient and field strengths were also increased. The bore diameter was increased to 70 centimeter while the magnet itself became ever narrower. Whole-body scans with MRI were now part of the basic equipment of a radiological practice. Accordingly, the focus was increasingly on patient-friendly MRI technology. Open systems were developed and the scanning times were reduced.
Today – Siemens Magnetic Resonance offers the most innovative and comprehensive portfolio for MRI – powered by Tim 4G (Total imaging matrix) technology and Dot (Day optimizing throughput). Together, these technologies redefine productivity in MRI. The field strength of MAGNETOM systems range from 0.35 up to 3 Tesla. For research there are also systems available with 7 and more Tesla.
Siemens was the first to deliver 70 centimeter Open Bore systems for 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla field strength, and also offers one of the broadest range of clinical applications in the industry.
Siemens MR’s latest innovations is the world’s only fully integrated simultaneous whole-body molecular MR (MR and PET) system – Biograph mMR. Last year Siemens MR was awarded as Best Business Unit 2012 with the Siemens AG top+ award. Today, people in 140 countries worldwide are scanned in almost 14.000 MAGNETOM Systems.