New, stronger MRI could lead to improved care
August 8, 2011
A new state-of-the-art 7 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the University of Minnesota Medical School could lead to better diagnosing and treatment for patients with epilepsy.
Neurologist Dr. Thomas Henry led the team that conducted research at the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR), an interdisciplinary research laboratory home to the world's strongest imaging magnets and most sensitive scanners.
Dr. Henry stated, "Standard MRI technology is an effective way to diagnose epilepsy when it is caused by large lesions. We believe that by using 7 Tesla machines, which we have right at our fingertips on the University of Minnesota campus, we'll be able to treat a greater population of epileptic patients more effectively."
The research team scanned patients using the 7 Telsa MRI to take extremely detailed images of their brains.The strength of a magnetic field is measured in Tesla units. A higher Tesla number captures a more detailed image. While most standard clinical MRI machines have strength of 1.5 or 3 Tesla, the new and improved 7 Tesla machine allowed researchers to take detailed images of patients' brain tissue, especially the portion responsible for causing epilepsy.
The clearer MRI images allowed Dr. Henry and his colleagues to more accurately find scar tissue associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. Locating scarring is important because for patients with seizures that are not controlled by medications, another treatment option is for highly-trained neurosurgeons to remove scars from the brain in order to stop seizures. The healthy parts of the brain are left untouched. During this research, the team was able to cure eight patients of their symptoms related to epilepsy.
"There is huge potential here to improve patient care through improved approaches to magnetic resonance imaging," said Dr. Henry. "When you see how much clearer these 7 Tesla images are, compared with standard MRI, it's sort of like reading fine print with a magnifying glass versus the naked eye. The possibility of using 7 Tesla MRI to find brain lesions that were missed on current brain scans is likely to be very helpful in epilepsy and many other conditions."
This study appears in an online edition of the journal Radiology.