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Upright Scanner Makes Getting An MRI Easier

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia are hoping a new, upright-standing MRI scanner will help them take clearer images of joints in patients’ hips and knees. It’s the first scanner of its kind in Canada.

MRI (or Magentic Resonance Imaging) scanners give doctors a way of seeing high-resolution images of the human body, including bones, joints, muscle, tissue, and organs. The non-invasive nature of MRI machines makes them a great alternative to sometimes risky surgical options.

In most cases patients undergoing an MRI are required to lay flat and motionless inside an enclosed area as the machine scans their body using magnets and radio waves. But being stuffed into a small space for up to 45 minutes at a time is hardly ideal for people with claustrophobia or significant weight issues.

In comparison, UBC’s new standing MRI machine does not require patients lay motionless in an enclosed space. Instead, they’re asked to place their joint in a wide open space in the position that causes them pain, allowing physicians to capture a more accurate image of the problem area.

So far, physicians have been impressed with the results. The upright MRI’s design allows doctors to capture moving images of bones, joints, and muscles, helping them see the problem causing a patient discomfort.

UBC biomedical engineer David Wilson says he’s very excited to start using the new upright MRI machine. “I see huge potential here,” Wilson said. “It’s a tremendously important research tool for us.”

Still, Wilson says it will take time for researchers to really see the full potential of the new MRI technology. “We’re trying to figure out the meaning of what we see in these scans,” Wilson said.

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