Cummings Gift of MRI Scanner Keeps U in Fore of Radiology

Cummings Gift of MRI Scanner Keeps U in Fore of Radiology

Jul 7, 2003 6:00 PM

If one picture is worth a thousand words, a single image from a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner should reveal an encyclopedia of knowledge to University of Utah physicians.

Ian and Annette Cumming, longtime philanthropists and U of U benefactors, recently gave University Hospital a Magnetom 3T Trio System--one of the most advanced MRI scanners in the world and the only one in the Intermountain West. The Cummings donated the $3 million system in honor of David G. Bragg, M.D., and J. Richard Baringer, M.D. Bragg is a former chair of the U School of Medicines radiology department and Baringer is a U professor and former chair of neurology.

The 3T scanner, which began operating July 7 in the Us Center for Advanced Medical Technologies in Research Park, produces images of the human body with twice the information and detail of most MRI scanners. The system gives University Hospital some of the most advanced radiologic capabilities in the West. The University is one of fewer than a couple of dozen medical centers in the country to have such an advanced MRI scanner.

Media are invited to learn about the scanner at an 11 a.m. briefing Wednesday, July 9, at the Center for Advanced Medical Technologies (CAMT), 729 Arapeed Drive, Research Park. A noon open house, also at CAMT, will honor the Cummings for donating the 3T.

Steve Stevens, M.D., professor and chair of radiology, said the 3T will have an important impact on three areas of the Us mission--clinical care, research, and teaching.

"Were going to see and understand the human body better than we ever have," Stevens said.

Made by Siemens Medical Solutions, the 3Ts magnet is twice as powerful as most MRIs, providing superior images of everything from spinal abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, and body tumors, to brain biochemistry, function, and anatomy. More detail means more reliable information, which will help physicians better diagnose and treat patients illnesses.

Doctors can, for example, view a 3T image and see whether someones heart wall is getting enough blood, how well the heart is pumping, or whether the coronary artery is blocked. Most current MRI scanners do not give that kind of detail.

A 3T scan can reveal whether a tumor is responding to treatment or recurring and, in some cases, even whether its benign or cancerous. Problems with joints, cartilage, and degenerative diseases all are easier to identify with a 3T scan.

Both children and adult patients, referred from doctors throughout the Intermountain Area and beyond, will benefit from the 3T.

"This is going to have a huge clinical impact," Stevens said.

The 3T also will significantly help research in areas such as neuroscience.

The scanner can identify minute changes in brain biochemistry, which may aid researchers in learning to predict--or even prevent--diseases. Multiple sclerosis (MS), for example, might show telltale changes in biochemistry before the disease lesions appear on the brain, according to Stevens. Identifying those biochemical changes could lead to a breakthrough in ways to diagnose, treat, or even prevent MS.

The 3T could help researchers reveal the secrets of many other neurological disorders and diseases as well. Physicians wont be the only ones using the 3T, and Stevens expects the scanner to enhance research collaboration campuswide. Researchers from the Universitys physics and engineering departments already want to book time on the scanner for experiments.

Education will be the 3Ts third primary benefit. U physicians will not only teach doctors-in-training, but also will instruct practitioners from around the country in how to use the scanner, according to Stevens.

"The magnet will attract researchers experienced in advancing imaging of disease processes, particularly in looking at the body from a molecular level," Stevens said.

The Us 3T scanner is the only one between Denver and San Francisco and from the North Pole to Phoenix. MRIs use magnetism and radio waves to make images of the body. Each scanner is equipped with a powerful magnet and radio transmitter/receiver.

Because of its powerful magnet the 3T is housed in a specially constructed room with 14-inch-thick copper walls to prevent stray radio signals or magnetic distortions from interfering with the scanner operation. Crews took 16 weeks building the room, at a cost of $500,000.

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