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Novel MRI technique provides clear images of blood flow

Kim, M.D. and Enn-Ling Chen, Ph.D.

"While further work is necessary to refine this new approach, GCFP already represents the only diagnostic technique capable of examining the functional effects of cardiovascular disease with real-time physician-scanner interaction, without an invasive procedure, without a contrast agent, and without radiation," Judd said.

The problems presented by contrast agents can be potentially significant, Judd explained, since these agents can cause kidney damage, and many patients with cardiovascular disease already have weakened kidneys due to their disease.

Currently, physicians wanting to see images or potentially blocked vessels typically use X-ray angiography. In this approach, a contrast agent is injected into the blood stream, and a series of X-rays are taken at the site of interest. These images are then assembled by a computer and the result is a short movie known as a cine (pronounced sin-ee).

"In our new approach, the act of MRI scanning itself excites protons in blood cells as they pass through the plane of the scan," Judd explained. "They are still excited as they flow downstream and the scanner can detect that signal. So the scanner is simultaneously tagging protons and collecting data."

During an MRI examination, a patient is guided through the cavity of a large doughnut-shaped magnet. The magnet causes hydrogen nuclei in cells to align, and when perturbed by radio waves, they give off characteristic signals, which create thousands of "cross-sectional "slices." These slices are then converted by computers into three-dimensional images.

While MRI technology itself is 20 years old, only in the past few years has technology improved to the point where accurate images of moving tissues can be taken. It was while studying these images of the heart and surrounding tissues that Judd continued to notice strange anomalies, or artifacts, appearing in the periphery of the scans. These artif
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Contact: Richard Merritt
merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
4-Apr-2004


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