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World’s Smallest MRI Scanner Helps To Image The Brain Of Tiny Babies

A new technically advanced MRI scanner is being used for creating images of the brains of some of the premature babies by some of the doctors in Sheffield, United Kingdom. A part of the two special purpose neonatal MRI scanners which are present in the world, this machine is currently present in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital. Using the normal ultrasound is the general trend in the current world to scan the new born babies’ brains.

According to the well-known professor from the University of Sheffield, Paul Griffiths, MRI are much more superior when it comes to providing clearer and better images of the brain as well as project any abnormalities which might be present very clearly.

neonatal-mri-1image source (Image Source)

Much better quality images

Funded by Welcome group, this MRI scanner had been built by GE healthcare and has till now been able to scan about 40 babies. Alice-Rose who was one of those 40 babies had two bleeding in her brain when she was born at a premature age of 24 weeks. Rachael and Shaun Westbrook, who are her parents, explained that the MRI scan was very helpful to their cause.

Shaun said, “It’s a much crisper image and a lot easier to understand than the ultrasound.”

Rachael also added that, “It’s been a rollercoaster since Alice-Rose was born on 6 November: not everything was fully formed, and she still weighs only 2lb 13oz (1.28kg). The MRI was reassuring as it meant you got a better look at her brain.”

During the time during which the bones which are present in the skull are not properly fused, it is very easy to carry out ultrasound in babies but when the bones are formed and fused it becomes an impossible task to map the brain.


neonatal-mri2-1Ultrasound image (left) of Alice-Rose with MR image (right). The MRI shows the structures of the brain with greater clarity Photo:UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

Comparison between Ultrasound and MRI

Through the spots between the bones in the brain sound waves can travel very easily. Professor Griffiths mentioned that, “Ultrasound is cheap, portable and convenient, but the position of the fontanelles means there are some parts of the brain which cannot be viewed. MRI is able to show all of the brain and the surrounding anatomy, making the images easier to explain to parents. From a diagnostic point, the big advantage is that MRI is able to show a wider range of brain abnormalities, in particular those which result from a lack of oxygen or blood supply.”

neonatal_jacoplane-1MRI scans are rarely performed on severely premature babies because the risks involved in transferring and handling a sick infant can outweigh the benefits.

Due to the risk associated with the transferring as well as handling a sick child, generally MRI scanning of babies are avoided to a great extent.

Professor Griffiths explained “MRI machines are huge, heavy objects which are sited in the basement or ground floor of hospitals, whereas maternity units are usually higher up, or in a completely different building, so it can mean a complicated journey to get a baby to and from the scanner.”

According to Professor Griffiths the immediate step would be to prove that MRI produced better diagnostic options in children and also if it by any means altered the health of a baby through clinical trials. It neonatal MRI scanning system is commercialized ever then the scanners would in general cost around many hundred thousand pounds. Also the Children’s Hospital at Cincinnati plays host to 1.5 Tesla neonatal MRI scanner which was modified from an adult orthopedic use.

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