Seeing more with MR

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Evan Godt, staff writer

A couple of recent trials show off the ability of advanced MR techniques to improve diagnosis and treatment in two major settings: Crohn’s disease and brain cancer.

The first study involves the use of high-resolution MR enterography (HR-MRE) to detect bowel ulceration, fistulae and abscesses in Crohn’s patients. Improving detection of these conditions is important because the degree of inflammation and ulceration influences which treatments are offered to patients.

As might be expected, HR-MRE offered a statistically significant improvement to sensitivity in the detection of abnormal segments compared with standard MRE.

The researchers from Warwick Hospital, Warwick, U.K., took it one step further and suggested that not only was HR-MRE superior to standard MRE, but that HR-MRE could be offered as a non-invasive alternative to MR enteroclysis. They suggested reserving MR enteroclysis for cases with obstructive features or suspected strictures.

Shifting settings, MR also showed its increasing potential in measuring brain tumor response to therapy at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in Indianapolis. There, researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, presented findings of a study that combined dynamic contrast enhanced MRI and diffusion weighted MRI to measure blood volume and cell density within tumors.

While standard MRI or CT is used after the completion of radiation therapy to see if a tumor has shrunk as a result of treatment, the combo of perfusion and diffusion MRI could indicate tumor response much earlier, in as little as two weeks after the start of therapy. This would allow physicians to make the decision to switch to more intensive therapy before the end of the treatment cycle.

Even as advanced MRI techniques continue to evolve, a challenge looms on the horizon in the form of the “helium cliff.” Congress has yet to extend the Federal Helium Reserve program, and a helium shortage could affect imaging equipment as most MRI scanners rely on liquid helium for cooling. A linked article from the Washington Post in this month’s Advanced Visualization newsletter has more on this situation.

Let us know about the MR-related successes or challenges your organization is experiencing.

-Evan Godt
Senior Staff Writer, Health Imaging