Radiofrequency safety of high permittivity pads in MRI—Impact of insulation material

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Purpose: High permittivity dielectric pads are known to be effective for tailoring the RF field and improving image quality in high field MRI. Despite a number of studies reporting benign specific absorption rate (SAR) effects, their “universal” safety remains an open concern. In this work, we evaluate the impact of the insulation material in between the pad and the body, using both RF simulations as well as phantom experiments. Methods: A 3T configuration with high permittivity material was simulated and characterized experimentally in terms of B1+ fields and RF power absorption, both with and without electrical insulation in between the high permittivity material and the sample. Different insulation conditions were compared, and electromagnetic analyses on the induced current density were performed to elucidate the effect. Results: Increases in RF heating of up to 49% were observed experimentally in a tissue-mimicking phantom after removing the material insulation. The B1+ magnitude and RF transceive phase were not affected. Simulations indicated that an insulation thickness of 0.5–2 mm should be accounted for in numerical models in order to ensure reliable results. Conclusion: A reliable RF safety assessment of high permittivity dielectric pads requires accounting for the insulating properties of the plastic encasing. Ignoring the electrical insulation can lead to erroneous results with substantial increases in local SAR at the interface. Conversely, the material insulation does not need to be modeled to predict the B1+ effects during the design of the pad geometry.