Developments to Watch
NOW, MRI PATIENTS DON'T HAVE TO BE SO PATIENT
Few things in medicine cause claustrophobia like a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam. For more than an hour, patients lie still inside a body-length tube that emits eerie pulsing sounds as it takes a series of body scans. Now, though, researchers at General Electric Co. and Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston have a way to ease the squeeze--enabling MRI exams to be done in a fraction of the time they are now. For instance, they can cut the wait for a brain scan from about nine minutes to just 30 seconds.
The technique, employing a hardware-software combination called Fast Spin Echo (FASE), offers more than speed: Its 512-by-512-pixel matrix provides twice the resolution of conventional MRI images. That lets doctors see bones and organs more clearly--and distinguish between tissue types. GE plans to offer FASE as an upgrade to its existing MRI units as soon as the Food & Drug Administration approves the technology.EDITED BY ROBERT BUDERI