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UPDATE: This new technology would require radiologists after all; see this update. We apologize for the error, which was based on an incorrect news release.

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Reconceptualizing MRI has led to a new way of using the technology that, according to its creators, could make a quick full-body scan a standard part of a diagnostic procedure or annual checkup.

According to a news release (via EurekAlert!) from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where researchers have been working on the concept for a decade, “A full-body scan lasting just minutes would provide far more information and require no radiologist to interpret the data.”

Wait. What was that last part again?

Yes, this new type of MRI, which its developers call “magnetic resonance fingerprinting,” or MRF, wouldn’t require interpretation. It would look for patterns in various body parts and tissues and automatically compare those patterns with a stored library of patterns. Some patterns would indicate healthy tissue. Others would indicate damage or disease—even type and severity.

Mark Griswold, PhD, a radiology professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, has been developing the technology. He is senior author of an article about it published Wednesday in Nature. As he is quoted as saying in the news release:

The overall goal is to specifically identify individual tissues and diseases, to hopefully see things and quantify things before they become a problem. But to try to get there, we’ve had to give up everything we knew about the MRI and start over.

He explains the difference in technologies as being like listening to two different choirs. “In the traditional MRI,” he said, “everyone is singing the same song, and you can tell who is singing louder, who is off-pitch, who is singing softer. But that’s about it.”

During an MRF scan, each member of the choir is singing a different song—a different “fingerprint” of each tissue and each disease inside the body. To “hear” the songs, the scanner simultaneously varies different parts of the electromagnetic fields, making the signal sensitive to four physical properties of tissues. The researchers think they eventually will be able to isolate eight or nine physical properties, each of which will be present to a greater or less degree in each specific type of tissue or disease.

Pattern-recognition algorithms isolate each song—without any need for interpretation by a radiologist. Each song is automatically compared with a standard “songbook,” and the machine produces a suite of diagnostic information.

“If colon cancer is ‘Happy Birthday’ and we don’t hear ‘Happy Birthday,’ the patient doesn’t have colon cancer,” Griswold said.

The news release concludes, “The group expects to reduce scanning time and continue to build the songbook, or library of fingerprints, over the next few years.” So MRF is a long way from clinical use. But it’s definitely worth watching. Or listening to.

Related seminar: UCSF Musculoskeletal MR Imaging

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One Response to “New Full-Body MRI Would Need No Radiologist”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » $60 Million GE-NFL Project Boosts Imaging on March 18th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    […] a correction we’re happy to post: Contrary to what we reported last week, a new type of MRI known as magnetic resonance fingerprinting (MRF) would indeed require […]