Imagine a device that allows physicians to see how a patient’s brain responds when the patient performs basic mental tasks. Or a machine that provides 3-D images of a patient’s heart with details so sharp, technicians can use them to create a movie of the heart as it works.
Sound like science fiction? It’s not. This technology is part of a new MRI suite opening soon at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In the 21 years I have been an MRI team member, MRI technology has progressed rapidly, and its clinical applications have expanded accordingly. That’s why I’m so excited about the latest addition to our department, a state-of-the-art 3 Tesla MRI scanner.
3 Tesla — or 3T — refers to the strength of the MRI magnet, which is the central component of the scanner. This magnet is strong — six times stronger than the magnet on the end of a crane used to pick up cars in a junkyard. The stronger the magnet, the better the images the MRI can capture. Using this new device, our physicians can capture something called a functional MRI of the brain, which shows what parts of the brain are activated when a patient is asked to perform a mental task. These images provide critical information about how each patient’s brain is uniquely wired, which allows physicians to determine the best treatment for a patient and give surgeons a highly detailed road map for surgical planning.
We will also use the new 3T MRI scanner to perform cardiac morphology and function exams. These studies are especially impressive, because the scans show “movie loops” of the heart beating at many different angles, so all the chambers, valves, vessels and blood flow throughout the heart can be assessed in detail. This will be an invaluable tool for the treatment of cardiac defects and disease. And these are just a few of the kinds of scans possible with MRI technology, which does not use radiation.
The new MRI suite is housed in a carefully controlled environment equipped with hardware and software that allows the patient to watch a movie or listen to music during the MRI scan, offering a safe and comforting experience for patients and their families. Children who otherwise may have needed sedation to undergo an MRI scan will often cooperate when presented with the option to watch Spongebob!
The new 3T MRI scanner is a powerful diagnostic tool, and I am proud that it is now part of our department.
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