Major advance for detecting brain conditions in babies
Thanks to pioneering research by experts at Evelina London Children's Hospital and King's College London, testing newborn babies with suspected brain abnormalities could become more accessible and more affordable for healthcare settings around the world.
The researchers conducted more than 100 paired scans comparing brain images from a new portable magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner with those from a traditional fixed MRI scanner. They found that the portable MRI scanner could effectively detect both normal brain anatomy, as well as a wide range of clinically important abnormalities with sufficient contrast, signal, and detail. The technology uses a weakened magnetic field, instead of the stronger one needed for traditional MRI machines. This means it is safe to use on small babies and in portable machines at their cot-side or in intensive care units, without having to move the infants for conventional imaging when critically sick.
Dr Paul Cawley, lead author for the study and consultant neonatologist at Evelina London Children's Hospital and King's College London, says: “This study is a much needed first step in establishing the potential of portable MRI scans for newborn babies. MRI is critical for diagnosing and deciding the best course of treatment for infants with suspected brain abnormalities.
“Portable MRI scanners are much less expensive to produce and are deployable directly within ward or clinical settings, which could enable more healthcare providers to scan babies and children – especially those that have no access or very limited access to static MRI scanners.”
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The portable MRI scanner.