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Posted 02.23.06
 
 
   

New MRI Machine Boosts Diagnostics, Research at College of Veterinary Medicine

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- According to the American Medical Veterinary Association, dogs are diagnosed with cancer at the same rate as humans, and the disease accounts for nearly half of all pet deaths. At the University of Missouri-Columbia's College of Veterinary Medicine, veterinarians are using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to locate and treat cancer before it spreads.

An MRI scan is a noninvasive procedure similar to a CT (computerized tomography) scan that can be vital to diagnostics in areas such as emergency, cardiovascular and neurological medicine. MRI creates a computer image of internal tissues by using a magnetic field and radio wave frequency pulses to detect different chemical compositions and tissue densities in the body by their different proton configurations. As radio frequency pulses are sent through the body, tissues absorb and release signal echoes at different rates and intensities based on the tissue compositions and according to the pulse sequences used in the procedure. A computer displays these variations as an image with many shades of gray in which each shade represents a different type of tissue. For example, MRI can distinguish gray from white matter in the brain, and in diagnostics, MRI can discern normal tissues from abnormal tissues such as tumors.

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Despite the important role MRI technology plays in both human and veterinary medicine, the cost and size of the machine are common obstacles. About half of the 27 accredited colleges of veterinary medicine in America have MR capabilities, said Ronald Haffey, a Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital administrator. The MU College of Veterinary Medicine paid $595,000 for its MRI machine and invested $40,000 of Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital revenue for site preparation and utility extensions on the College campus.

Beginning in September, faculty, technicians and clinicians were trained to operate the new teaching and research tool.

"In the past, the College of Veterinary Medicine scheduled times to perform MRI scans at the MU School of Medicine in the University Hospital," said Lisa Britt, assistant professor of veterinary medicine and surgery specializing in radiology. "Now, veterinary medicine students, interns and residents can assist with anesthesia and observe imaging to gain valuable experience working with MRI on a regular basis."

Britt said MRI scans can provide detailed images of lesions and soft tissues, such as the soft tissues in knees and shoulders and the white and gray matter in the brain, with more precision and clarity than CT scans. The College's new MRI technology operates at 1.5 Tesla, or 15,000 gauss, the strongest magnetic field commonly used for imaging in everyday clinical work. Safety zones are mapped around the machine to keep metal objects such as pacemakers and other potential projectiles out of the magnetic field. Britt said an MRI machine can scan animals or animal body parts weighing up to 400 pounds as long as they fit through the framework of the machine. At MU, it is used most often to image the tissues of small, live animals such as cats and dogs.

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