Powerful new MRI scanner gives physicians a new tool

Doctors at Reno Diagnostic Centers in Reno now have greater capability than ever before to diagnose diseases and disorders, thanks to a new magnetic resonance imaging scanner.

The center is the first and only health care provider in Northern Nevada to acquire a 3T MRI scanner - the most powerful available today for clinical use. Before, local patients had to drive to the San Francisco Bay Area to take advantage of the latest technology.

The new $3 million machine, made by GE Medical Systems, is equipped with twice the magnetic power of the earlier 1.5T MRI scanners.

To get an idea of the magnet's strength, imagine a man holding a set of car keys. With the 1.5T MRI, he would feel the magnet tugging at the keys when standing a foot or two away from the machine. With the 3T scanner, he would feel the magnet pull at the keys 10 or 15 feet away, says Dr. Ross Golding, the center's medical director.

The greater magnetic power enables the scanner to produce higher quality images. It's like the difference between the picture on a HDTV plasma screen and the picture on a 10-year-old television set.

"The better you see things, the more confident and accurate you can be in your diagnosis," Golding says.

The machine will let doctors test new techniques for magnetic imaging and improve diagnosis of a wide range of conditions, including cardiac and vascular disease, stroke, and brain and abdominal disorders. Using the new MRI technology, for instance, doctors will be able to detect very small brain tumors that wouldn't have shown up in images produced by older technology. They'll also be able to detect activity of disorders such as multiple sclerosis in earlier stages.

Reno Diagnostic Centers installed the new scanner last month, and the medical staff is now using it on patients.

The 3T MRI is similar in appearance to the older 1.5T, and the cost to patients is the same.

The new acquisition continues a pioneering tradition at Reno Diagnostic Centers, which in 1985 was the first health care provider in the state to acquire a MRI scanner.

MRI technology has revolutionized medical diagnosis and treatment in the last 20 years, and the state-of-the-art technology is leading advances today in such areas as "brain mapping."

"It allows you to see how the brain is functioning in second-by-second testing," Golding says. Doctors, for instance, will be able to detect effects of therapies for psychiatric disorders and the sources of migraines and seizures.

Scientists elsewhere are using the technology for non-medical applications, too. The latest MRI scanners, for instance, can detect when people are telling lies and how viewers respond to television advertising.


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