Difference Between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI Scanner – Price, Use, and More

So, what is the difference between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanner? 

If you are in a position to choose between these high field 3.0T MRI and a 1.5T MRI scanner, the factors you must consider are cost, time and primary usage.

It is not hard to figure out that a 3.0T MRI scanner has twice as strong a field as a 1.5T MRI scanner, but what does that really mean? 

In this post, we provide a total rundown of the differences between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI machines. By the end, you will know most of the pros and cons of 1.5T and 3.0T MRIs.

Let us get started.

What Are the Benefits and Limitations of 1.5T vs 3.0T MRI Scanners?

Determining which MRI equipment is best for your hospital or imaging center can be a difficult task. MRI technology advancements have significantly improved imaging quality, speed, and safety.

But, at what cost, is a faster MRI better? 

New 3.0T MRIs are typically almost twice as expensive as 1.5T equipment. However, there are other factors to consider in order to make the best equipment purchasing decision. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of 1.5T and 3.0T MRI is the best way to select the equipment that fits your facility’s usage, budget, and volume requirements.

Let us look at some of the differences between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanners in more detail.

Image Quality & Applications

Image quality is crucial for the most accurate patient diagnoses and both MRIs offer superior imaging capabilities. Great images are obtained with a slower scan of a 1.5T MRI machine.

This provides ideal ground for:

  • General imaging
  • Extremities
  • Cardiac
  • Basic brain imaging
  • Better musculoskeletal imaging

Resulting in less artifacts and making it easier to keep the homogeneity of the magnetic field. Among 1.5T MRIs belong Toshiba Vantage Elan 1.5T, Siemens Magnetom Avanto 1.5T , Siemens Magnetom Essenza 1.5T, GE MR450W 1.5T, Philips Achieva Nova 1.5T, and GE Discovery MR450 1.5T.

However, lack of clarity and image quality in studies that require extremely detailed imaging can only be eliminated with a 3.0T MRI machine. With its higher SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) and contrast, leading to better quality, 3T delivers better images and superior clarity along with better parallel and faster imaging.

And thus, the 3.0T MRI scanner has an advantage in certain applications. The 3.0T MRI scanners are ideal for:

  • Imaging small bones
  • Breast
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurological
  • Vascular MRI, where the small details are especially crucial to provide accurate diagnosis
  • Brain imaging (mainly spectroscopy)
  • Brain perfusion
  • fMRI
  • Blood perfusion
  • Bone marrow and prostate imaging

On the secondary market, you will often encounter 3.0T MRI scanners such as Toshiba Vantage Titan 3.0T and Philips Achieva 3.0T.

To make it easier for you, pretty much all the examinations of blood, soft tissue, bone marrow, and similar that cannot be achieved with so much detail using 1.5 Tesla MRI machines are performed with 3 Tesla MRI machines.

Image Speed & Daily Throughput 

When a hospital has a high patient volume, speed becomes more important. Some 1.5T MRI scanners require significant time for patient preparation. That may be inefficient in hospitals that require high image quality and have a high volume of patients. 

On the other hand, 3.0T MRI scanners offer double signal strength, which has a direct impact on reducing scan times and maintaining great image quality. Despite these differences, if the workload of a clinic or a hospital is not extremely high, the speed of creating images will not matter.

How loud is the 3.0T MRI Scanner? 

When it comes to the noise during MRI procedures, a higher gradient power will typically cause more noise. Most 3.0T MRI machines come with powerful gradients, so they are logically noisier. 

That might be one of the disadvantages of the 3.0T MRI that you may want to consider.

Price Difference Between 1.5T and 3.0T MRI Scanners

Cost is typically the main driver when it comes to purchasing expensive medical equipment, and the cost difference between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanner is considerable. In general, the difference between a 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanner is that the 3 Tesla MRI scanner is 30-40% more expensive than a 1.5 Tesla MRI scanner.

See below a comparison of MRI scanner pricing of brand new and used MRI scanners. These are the price ranges that you can expect when setting your MRI budget.

Difference Between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI Scanner - Price

Now let us take a look at some additional costs, such as service and parts, running costs, and power consumption that one should consider when purchasing a 1.5T or 3.0T MRI scanner.

What Are the Maintenance Costs of 1.5T and 3.0T MRI Machines

The main difference between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanners is that in case of emergency, the availability of 1.5T parts is much higher, at lower costs and easier to service, compared to 3.0T MRI parts. The same applies to the expertise and knowledge required when servicing such a system.

3.0T MRI machines must be handled with a different level of expertise than 1.5T MRI scanners, which also results in higher component costs.

The annual costs of the 1.5T MRI system are also much lower. 3.0T MRIs, on the other hand, require higher power consumption and a chiller.

How About Safety Issues In MRI?

The biggest concern in the world of MRIs, to date, remains safety. And therefore, under strict safety guidelines, patients can be scanned equally as safe in both 1.5T and 3.0T MRI systems in most circumstances.

It is important to remember that patients with implants or certain devices, such as pacemakers or hearing aids are affected by MRIs magnetic fields. Therefore, they are safest in 1.5T magnet. Pregnant women should avoid 3.0T MRI magnets.

Is specific absorption rate (SAR) important?

SAR is the estimated rate of energy absorption by the body during an MRI scan. The more energy that is absorbed, the more heat is produced. This could be dangerous for the patient because heating the implants and the surrounding tissue could result in second degree burns.

This is not really an issue with a 1.5T MRI scanner, but it becomes more of an issue with a 3.0T MRI scanner because it is much more powerful. As a result, the radiographer may have to pause the scan between sequences to allow the SAR to drop. 

Overweight patients also may be affected as radiographers must increase the magnet strength to obtain high-quality images.

Just keep in mind that SAR has no known long-term effects and is always closely monitored throughout the scan.

What do I need to know about 3T field strength?

The field is so high that it will affect everything. In case of malfunction, the 3.0T MRI can destroy the machine’s surroundings. It may also destroy other machines if impaired and not shielded properly. 

In the event of malfunction of the shield, everything near the system would be impacted and ruined up to a distance of 4.5 m. 

Sum up: Difference Between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI Scanner

Finally, to sum it up and make it easier for you to be on top of the differences between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanners, we made a simple overview below.

Difference Between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI Scanner

Is 1.5T MRI enough? Is 3.0T MRI better?

While researching both systems, keep in mind that the decision between the reliable 1.5 Tesla and the faster, more expensive 3 Tesla should be based on your facility’s usage and budget.

In either case, you can be confident that your facility will be equipped with the most advanced MRI technology available today.

At this point, we hope you have gained a clear understanding of the main difference between 1.5 Tesla and 3 Tesla MRI scanner. And you may have an idea of which MRI machine is the best for you.

If you would like to learn more about MRI machines in general, you can read our Guide to MRI machines

Are you looking for a specific MRI scanner? Then take a look at our MRI Scanners for sale.