Despite its widespread use, traditional MRI is qualitative, meaning that the assessment of the MR images is performed through the visual inspection of the contrast between anatomical areas that are (supposedly) healthy and abnormal. This approach does not quantify biomarkers, it does not provide direct information about the nature of the pathology and it is not fit to identify subtle changes involving a whole tissue. Moreover, the features of traditional MR images are affected by incidental factors (e.g. the acquisition sequence and the hardware adopted), which do not allow a direct comparison of results obtained at different times and examination conditions.
To address these issues, quantitative imaging approaches including EPT and MRF are being developed, with the aim of eliminating interobserver variability and reducing the need for invasive procedures (e.g. biopsies). In addition, EPT and MRF should enable new biomarkers to be identified for a plethora of pathologies and they should boost early disease detection.
These quantitative techniques could be used to monitor the course of a disease over time and to optimize the clinical path, improving the quality of life of patients and reducing the associated economic burden.