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‘Active MRI’ Makes Movies Of Wrist In Motion

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They’re kind of boring, very short, and will never win an Academy Award. But the movies that University of California, Davis, radiologists, medical physicists, and orthopedic surgeons have created with MRI may win rave reviews from patients with wrist problems.

The UC Davis researchers have developed a technique called Active MRI. It takes a scan every half second, allowing moving images of what’s going on inside the joint as subjects flex their wrists inside the scanner. The team published an article about their findings (with video) on December 31 in the online open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Robert Boutin, MD, professor of clinical radiology and lead author of the study, explained the significance:

Now patients can reproduce the motion that’s bothering them while they’re inside the scanner, and physicians can assess how the wrist is actually working. After all, some patients only have pain or other symptoms with movement.

Dr. Boutin was quoted in a UC Davis news release.

To image joints in motion, the researchers looked to MRI as an alternative to fluoroscopy or CT because of MRI’s soft-tissue detail and lack of ionizing radiation. They tried the technique on 10 subjects with no symptoms of wrist problems.

“Routine MRI provides exquisite details, but only if the body is completely motionless in one particular position,” Dr. Boutin said. “But bodies are made to move. We think Active MRI will be a valuable tool in augmenting traditional static MRI tests.”

Abhijit Chaudhari, PhD, an assistant professor of radiology and senior author of the study, said the next step was to image subjects who exhibit symptoms of wrist instability.

“We also want to use Active MRI to study sex distinctions in musculoskeletal conditions,” he said, “including why women tend to be more susceptible to hand osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.”

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Related CME seminar (up to 13.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): New Horizons in Musculoskeletal MRI

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