CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A traditional MRI is a great tool. But for some, its close quarters can be scary, and for doctors, it can only give images of a patient lying down. A new upright MRI could change the way doctors treat patients.
You need Flash Player 8 or higher to view video content with the ROO Flash Player.
Click here to download and install it.
Jill Chase says she became claustrophobic after getting an MRI.
“I started to breathe heavy," Chase said. “I really started freaking out. It looked like a coffin.”
Traditional MRIs use a huge doughnut-shaped magnet to get an image, and that makes for close quarters for the patient. Now, physicists are developing a low-magnetic-field, walk-in MRI that allows them to take images of the patient sitting, standing or lying down, which is especially helpful when imaging the lungs.
Traditional MRIs need a strong magnetic field to detect the weak field inside the body -- but for this MRI, only a low magnetic field is required since the patient first inhales magnetized helium, boosting their body’s natural field from the inside.
“The magnetized helium can be imaged very sensitively inside the lungs, and you get beautiful pictures for understanding how the lungs work and for diagnosing issues of asthma and emphysema," Ronald Walsworth, Ph.D., a physicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., told Ivanhoe.
Compared to traditional MRIs, the images of the lungs appear clearer. Dr. Walsworth says the system is the only one in the world that can map oxygen concentration in the lung, both upright and lying down. That information could help asthmatics.
“Using their inhaler, we would be able to determine which body orientation they should be in -- which posture -- leaning, this way, lying down, to take the inhaler to better treat those different regions," Dr. Walsworth said.
Because the upright MRI has a low magnetic field, it is safe for infants and those with implant devices. Eventually the physicists hope to create a magnetized liquid patients could inject or drink that would enable them to see varied positions of other parts of the body.
The American Physical Society and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.