Since the first MRI was conducted on a human patient in 1977, the technology has significantly advanced.
MRI, short for magnetic resonance imaging, is a medical scan that uses strong magnets, radio waves and computers to take detailed pictures of tissues inside the body.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that millions of MRIs are performed each year. They’re frequently and efficiently used to diagnose and treat patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS). This is a disease of the central nervous system. MRI’s also aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of other neurologic conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, headaches and brain tumors.
“MRI has really changed the way we can practice medicine,” says Staley A. Brod, a professor of neurology and chief of neuroimmunology and multiple sclerosis at Medical College of Wisconsin.
MRI provides confirmation of a disease such as MS. Then doctors can try therapies and monitor the patient’s progress in follow-up exams.
Dr. Brod says much of the disease process for patients with MS is “under the radar” and difficult to see. Imaging done consistently from one scan session to another can provide great detail.
“The spatial resolution has improved over time and we’re able to see even smaller changes in the disease,” he says, noting MRI results often show 5-10 times more than what doctors can see from clinical symptoms.
GE Healthcare, a medical technology and life sciences company, has over 4 million imaging, mobile diagnostic and monitoring devices installed across the globe. Physicians are using these sophisticated imaging systems to help optimize patient diagnosis as well as provide long-term care.
The company’s focus is on precision health — to help ensure that the right actions are taken at the right time for each and every patient.
“GE Healthcare is developing tools that improve patient satisfaction and empower radiologists with precise information to aid in diagnosis and better patient outcomes,” says Suchandrima Banerjee, the global MR neuroscience manager for GE Healthcare.
MRI, a state-of-the art technology, provides consistent results.
GE Healthcare technologies include AIRx™, which uses a deep-learning approach to automatically detect and suggest “slices” (image locations) for neurological exams and deliver consistent and quantifiable results from scan to scan. Software, such as Quantib™ Brain, uses machine-learning to identify where lesions are in an MS patient’s brain, while color coding new and old lesions and measuring brain volume.
“No matter how the patient’s head is positioned, AIRx™ will place those slices in the same location, reducing variation amongst different technologists,” says Heide Harris, clinical marketing applications manager, global MR for GE Healthcare.
Technology advances from GE have brought increased speed, comfort and improved image quality. Patients can now lie on their backs and be scanned from head to toe, front to back and side to side. They don’t even have to move.
“Thanks to new MRI technology we can reach high quality results to give patients a confident answer about their diagnosis,” says Dr. Pascal Roux, a neuroradiologist at the Centre Imagerie du Nord in Paris.
The technology is faster too. He says 10 years ago an exam took 25-35 minutes. Now many exams can be completed in about 10 minutes.
One of his patients, a 45-year-old man, went to the emergency room with sensory problems. An MRI scan of his brain showed he had inflammation from MS. A 29-year-old female patient had blurred vision; after imaging, she was diagnosed with optic neurosis and MS.
Overall, MS patients are optimistic about the advances in MRI technology.
Dr. Brod says, “They’re very excited to be a part of the imaging advances that might help MS patients in the future.”