The technique, known as helium-3 diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (3He diffusion MRI) is more sensitive than computed tomography (CT) or any other imaging method currently available for examining the lung. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The lead author is Dmitriy A. Yablonskiy, Ph.D., a professor of physics and an assistant professor of radiology at the School of Medicines Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.
Our findings suggest this may be a new means for the early detection of emphysema by demonstrating the enlargement of the air spaces in the lung, says Stephen S. Lefrak, M.D., professor of medicine and a co-author of the paper. I suspect it also will help in understanding the development, evolution, progression and physiological effects of many lung diseases including emphysema, asthma and perhaps pulmonary fibrosis.
Joel D. Cooper, M.D., Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery and head of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery added, This technique may well help us refine our selection criteria and better predict the outcome of emphysema patients undergoing lung-volume reduction surgery. Lung reduction surgery involves the removal of the most diseased areas of the lung in select patients.
3He diffusion MRI uses a nonradioactive and highly polarized hyperpolarized form of helium gas. Hyperpolarizing the gas, which is done using lasers, makes the helium detectable by MRI.
To perform the technique, a patient in an MRI machine inhales the gas and holds his or her breath for ten seconds. The resulting image shows how far the atoms of helium travel, or diffuse, within the lungs during a period of two thousandths of a seco
Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Washington University School of Medicine