WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Biomedical researchers at Purdue University are using a one-of-a-kind test apparatus to obtain physiological information that will enable developers of Magnetic Resonance Imaging to produce faster, more precise MRI scans without causing discomfort to patients.
"Faster scanning techniques allow doctors to gather images from parts of the body that are currently hard to scan, such as the liver, and to view transient phenomena such as cardiac activity and blood flow in a noninvasive way," says Joe Bourland, director of bioengineering research at Purdue's Hillenbrand Biomedical Engineering Research Center.
In addition, such machines could lower the cost of MRI scans, because each patient would spend less time in a machine, Bourland says.
"In some cases, scans that previously required 15 minutes can now be done in one to one-and-a-half minutes," he says.
Though faster scanning techniques may bring improvements in image quality, Bourland says the combination of high-powered and fast-changing magnetic fields has potential to cause discomfort in patients. His group at Purdue is studying ways to combine power and speed without causing distress.
Initial findings from the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be reported April 16 at the annual meeting of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance Medicine in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Bourland and Purdue electrical engineering Professor John Nyenhuis have studied the safety of MRI technology for more than eight years. Much of their early work focused on the magnetic field's effects on the heart and other organs. Their work played a role in the introduction of new "fast-scan" MRI systems last year, including the echo planar and hybrid imaging systems.
Though these new systems have improved image quality and speed, Bourland says there is room for more improvement.