The story of MRI
We always keep our search mode on for patterns in thoughts about surrounding world. Keep your eyes open because a few revolutionary ideas are likely to come from these thoughts in unexpected places.
Can you believe a paper napkin in a restaurant became the first witness to the plans of such an instrumental idea, which save thousands of lives every year? The idea shaper behind this is Dr. Paul Lauterbur.
Imagine this man’s brainstorming while dealing a burger for dinner resulting in MRI one evening. He along with Dr. Peter Mansfield bagged the Nobel Prize in physiology in 2003 for the advances of techniques in Medical Imaging.
Medical imaging technique captures the insides of the body in a series of images. The 3D projection of these images helps to understand our inner science, and issues better. Radiology, a specialized science, diagnoses and sometimes treats the diseases within the body. Radiologists study these images and forward their diagnosis to the concerned physician.
The science of medical Imaging lies in the fact of creating the inside image of the body, by being non-invasive. It would save loads of manual effort and time to pinpoint the problem.
The alternative techniques use emissions and transmissions to generate images of functional and structural information of the body. X-rays, Ultrasound, CT scan, etc. are various types of Medical Imaging. MRI is famous among all since a noninvasive and a painless medical test.
For decades, everyone used Magnetic resonance for learning the chemical composition of substances. Raymond Damadian gets the actual credit of using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to look inside the body.
Although many scientists earlier described the underlying physics of it, in the later 70s, Dr. Peter Mansfield and Dr. Paul Lauterbur developed the revolutionary advanced,‘echo planar Imaging.’ It is the most updated version of MRI, which gives sharper images with an amazing scanning speed of seconds.
The early images of MRI he took include a clam, collected by his daughter in the beach, green peppers and two test tubes of heavy water. The ‘Nature’ Journal rejected that paper at first since the images were too fuzzy. Later, Dr. Mansfield took up the initial work of Lauterbur and stepped further.
MRI has been improved a lot since its inception in the 1970s. Basically, MRI maps the distribution of water in the body. Water comprises hydrogen and oxygen, right? This molecular arrangement and shape of water make it easy for MRI to scan hydrogen in the body. Naturally, the organ which has higher water content like the brain and other soft tissues can be mapped easily by using this technique. But in tissues like bone, the water content is only about 30% so the images have dark patches comparatively.
My intention is to not discuss entire physics principle behind MRI. However, the basic diagnostic process involves putting the patient into an MRI unit first. A wire coil present in the unit sends and receives waves. The regions of water present in the body get targeted by these waves in the presence of a strong magnetic field. Single protons in hydrogen atoms act as magnetic dipoles, helps to produce high definition images. While the patient is on the scanner, protons align with the magnetic field. Coils produce the magnetic field with the help of electricity we provide. The positions of the proton shift when the magnetic field is on and releases the signals. A computer then processes these signals and generates a series of images.
Each series of images represent a thin slice of the body. Everyone who had MRI scan knows the test takes lots of time. Because the patient has to get scanned slice by slice and part by part of the body. After compiling the sequential collection of these images, a computer arranges them into a three-dimensional structural body. The monitor displays it from many angles for further diagnosis and study. Mansfield contributed by inventing this slice choice part of MRI.
The conditions and diagnoses carried out by MRI images include:
-Tumors and organs like the chest, abdomen and pelvis abnormalities
– Heart and circulatory system components abnormalities in their structure and function.
– Vascular issues and diseases of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, developed at the time of birth.
– Biliary system (gallbladder and bile ducts which produce bile) conditions.
Benefits of MRI:
– Noninvasive technique.
– No radiation exposure involved. Hence no side effects.
– Recognize abnormalities and characteristics of soft body tissues like the heart, liver better than any other imaging techniques.
– The material used is less likely to produce allergy than those in X- rays and CT scanning. Future and advancements:
FMRI is functional magnetic resonance imaging. It’s the most advanced form of neuroimaging. This specialized MRI scan measures the change in blood flow and blood oxygenation response action in the brain and spinal cord. Developing the echo planar imaging protocol made FMRI feasible. Even though the safest procedure, MRI remains one of the costliest scanning tests. All things considered, the future research on MRI is likely to go in the line of bettering the MRI equipment, lowering the high test and maintenance costs.
On the whole, it remains one of the revolutionary inventions of mankind in the medical field. And another classic example of the fact that inspiration can come from anywhere around, anything can be your equipment, but the drive has to come from within.