Investigation of contrast mechanisms for MRI phase signal-based proton beam visualization in water phantoms

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



PURPOSE: The low sensitivity and limitation to water phantoms of convection-dependent MRI magnitude signal-based proton beam visualization hinder its in vivo applicability in MR-integrated proton beam therapy. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to assess possible contrast mechanisms for MRI phase signal-based proton beam visualization that can potentially be exploited to enhance the sensitivity of the method and extend its applicability to tissue materials.

METHODS: To assess whether proton beam-induced magnetic field perturbations, changes in material susceptibility or convection result in detectable changes in the MRI phase signal, water phantom characteristics, experiment timing, and imaging parameters were varied in combined irradiation and imaging experiments using a time-of-flight angiography pulse sequence on a prototype in-beam MRI scanner. Velocity encoding was used to further probe and quantify beam-induced convection.

RESULTS: MRI phase signal-based proton beam visualization proved feasible. The observed phase difference contrast was evoked by beam-induced buoyant convection with flow velocities in the mm/s range. Proton beam-induced magnetic field perturbations or changes in magnetic susceptibility did not influence the MRI phase signal. Velocity encoding was identified as a means to enhance the detection sensitivity.

CONCLUSION: Because the MRI phase difference contrast observed during proton beam irradiation of water phantoms is caused by beam-induced convection, this method will unlikely be transferable to tightly compartmentalized tissue wherein flow effects are restricted. However, strong velocity encoded pulse sequences were identified as promising candidates for the future development of MRI-based methods for water phantom-based geometric quality assurance in MR-integrated proton beam therapy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1776-1788
Number of pages13
Journal Magnetic resonance in medicine : an official journal of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

External IDs

Scopus 85163222182



  • Protons, Water, Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods, Proton Therapy/methods, Phantoms, Imaging