Detecting paediatric hydrocephalus in Uganda

A frugal low-field MRI scanner

MRI? Low-field? In case you are not fluent in med-tech jargon, an MRI scanner is a device that allows you to see inside a patient’s body using a magnetic field. Unlike conventional scanners, where superconducting electromagnets and liquid helium are used, this scanner uses permanent magnets. The resulting magnetic field is thus much weaker, leading to the name low-field. MRI scanners can be vital instruments when it comes to treating certain diseases such as hydrocephalus, a serious condition that consists of an accumulation of cerebral fluid that puts pressure on the brain

In Uganda and in many other Sub-Saharan countries there is a high need for appropriate medical technologies. Child mortality rates caused by hydrocephalus are still very high as it can only be treated with brain imaging and neurosurgical treatment. However, regular MRI devices are very high in cost and bulky and therefore out-of-reach for many (small) hospitals in Uganda.

This project tackles the out-of-reach MRI problem by developing a much more basic machine that is sufficient to treat hydrocephalus. Two former assignments have been done on the MRI project, and the hardware is in place. This year’s challenge is to look more closely at how the innovative scanner can be brought from the research labs in the Netherlands to the people in Uganda. 


The prototype of the low-field MRI scanner


The project

The student team from the minor Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Global Development (FI4SGD) are helping the project in four distinct ways. Firstly, they are developing a new business plan that will help the scanner go from a scientific innovation to a commercial product. This will allow the new MRI technology to have a widespread impact and help as many people as possible.

Furthermore, the team is researching the certification of medical devices and investigating any ethical concerns. Though these are two different topics, both need to be looked at in order for the scanner to move towards being tested on patients and ultimately being used in hospitals.

Finally, they are programming a user-friendly web interface that turns the MRI output data into good quality images. The magic algorithms crunching the data have been written by experts at the TU Delft, but it is our website that connects user and program.


A frugal technology

The MRI is an innovative frugal technology as it is compact, cheap, and uses almost no power. This gives the low-field MRI also many advantages over a regular MRI scanner. Ultimately the goal of the project is to make MRI technology more widely available in developing countries, starting with the CURE hospital in Uganda where children are treated for the neurological disease hydrocephalus. 


Project Team

Academic Supervisor

  • Dr. Martin van Gijzen,Technische Universiteit Delft

Organisational Supervisor 

  • Dr. Martin van Gijzen,Technische Universiteit Delft
  • Prof. dr. Andrew Webb, LUMC 
  • Dr. Johnes Obungoloch, Mbarara University of Science and Technology

Student Research Team

  • Leo X. Driever (TU Delft – Aerospace Engineering)
  • Anna Paardekooper (TU Delft - TBM)
  • Cassandre Verhelst (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam – International Business Administration)