Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnets to create images of the human body which are widely used in medical practice as they have shown to be invaluable for guiding and monitoring interventional surgical procedures. Despite the use of this medical technology, MRI scanners are currently limited as being large, expensive, and fixed. Patients being situated inside a closed MRI system have to remain motionless in a prone position for an extended period of time which can be a significant obstacle in obtaining MRI scans. To ensure that the patient remains still, the head is often pinned in a head holder which is often known to produce anxiety, claustrophobia and discomfort. There is a need for brain imaging technology that is more portable and less restricting than current MRI scanners. One way to address these issues is to decrease the size of the MRI magnet to make a head-only system.
This study is part of a larger research project with leading experts from multiple disciplines and institutions that focus on the technical development of the scanner. The project aim is to design, build, and validate the first-ever human MRI scanner requiring only the head to be inside the magnet bore, this allows the system to be portable and enables the patient to be situated in an upright position during the scanning process. This research occurred alongside the development of this system at the formative stage of the process.
The aim of this study was to develop the head support for a seated brain imaging magnet to minimises head movement during the procedure while enhancing the patient experience. A human-centered design methodology and a research through design process was used to create design prototypes. The final design is an inflatable pocket designed to decrease head movement when inflated, and it was found to evoke low levels of discomfort and anxiety.