March 17 - Researchers in California have developed a new MRI technique which images wrist motion in real time. By capturing multiple scans per second, the team have been able to produce movies showing how one of the most complicated joints in the human body functions, a development that could lead to better surgical procedures and customized prosthetics in the future. Ben Gruber reports.
It's a medical imaging technology with a difference. Whereas conventional MRI and Xray scans require patients to lie perfectly still, "Active MRI" technology diagnoses joint problems as the joint moves. Robert Boutin, a professor of radiology at UC Davis leads the team who developed the technique. As a patient moves his wrist during a scan, Boutin is capturing multiple images per second and stringing them together to create a movie of its motion in real time. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT BOUTIN, PROFESSOR OF RADIOLOGY, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "One thing that is important is that we can personalize the exam to address what is causing symptoms to the patient, rather than doing the same thing for everyone." And by personalizing the scan based on individual patient motion, Boutin believes surgeons will gain a clearer picture of the mechanics behind wrist problems before any surgery is performed. Boutin chose to test the new MRI protocol on wrists because they are among the most complicated joints in the body. Orthopaedic surgeon Robert Szabo agrees, they are the ideal model.. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT SZABO, PROFESSOR OF ORTHOPAEDICS, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "You cant imagine why would God design something like that and certainly as human beings, we don't understand why. But as we get pieces of that information together and we can understand why one person develops an unstable wrist, why one person has pain and wears out the joint surface in one area of the wrist and what we can do to replace, make better products over even make soft tissue corrections to improve that patients life." Dr. Szabo says the "Active MRI" has already benefited patients. It has allowed him to visualize the complex interactions of the tiny bones that make up their wrist to see in detail, where problems lie. And, he says, the technology has potential for amputees.. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT SZABO, PROFESSOR OF ORTHOPAEDICS, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "I also believe that this will lead to the development of making better prosthetics, better operations for patients." Robert Boutin says imaging a wrist in motion is just the beginning. He believes this technology will ultimately be used to gain a better understanding of how the entire body moves. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT BOUTIN, PROFESSOR OF RADIOLOGY, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "Well I think that it could and should be applied to every other joint in the body, not only other joints, but muscles and tendons. We are built to move and I think that MR imaging should reflect that." Boutin says that Active MRI isn't meant to replace traditional scanning but to compliment it, .providing doctors with a new perspective on diagnosing the aches and pains of the human body.