Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a common non-invasive procedure which revolutionised medicine when it was introduced in the early 1970s. MRI uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves, and the body’s natural magnetic properties, namely the hydrogen proton, to create a detailed, cross-sectional image of internal organs and structures, allowing the inside of the human body to be examined in high detail.
Typically, MRI is used to identify anomalies of the brain and spinal cord; tumours and cysts; breast cancer; and injuries to joints however, recent studies have pointed towards the use of the MRI for the prevention of disease paving the way for preventative medicine and reduced healthcare costs.
Results from a recent study suggest the use of CSE-MRI (chemical shift-encoded-MRI) in patients at risk of NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), a condition which is often diagnosed at too late a stage. NAFLD is a condition in which fat builds up in the liver cells and is characterised by inflammation of the liver – leading to cirrhosis and liver failure. Using CSE-MRI, researchers measured liver fat in obese patients prior to and following bariatric surgery and found it can be used to accurately monitor fat in liver cells, all without invasive and uncomfortable liver biopsies.
Another recently published study has demonstrated the use of MRI, as opposed to ultrasound, in helping to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as stroke, in patients who do not have known risk factors (e.g. high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity). Typically, to assess the risk of CVD, the thickness of certain parts of the common carotid artery (CCA), an artery which supplies oxygen-rich blood to the head and neck, is measured. Prior to a stroke, for example, this artery wall begins to thicken due to accumulated plaque. Following the study of approximately 700 patients monitored over three years, it was suggested that MRI can improve CVD risk assessment.
The introduction of MRI into clinical practice represented a huge milestone for diagnosis in the medical world and these recent studies suggests it could be further utilised in preventative medicine and therefore reduce the economic impact on healthcare systems.
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