Quantum Leap in Diagnosis of Disease
A world first: Bonn University gets high-performance tomography system
A state-of-the-art diagnosis system is now being introduced at the University of Bonn’s Radiological Clinic: the first of its kind worldwide, it is a new type of high-field nuclear magnetic resonance tomography spectrometer which opens up completely new possibilities both for clinical application to patients, for clinical research and pure research. Philips have placed the multi-million euro spectrometer at the University’s disposal; the Radiological Clinic beat rival applicants from the US, Japan and Europe.
“Our diagnostic possibilities will experience a marked expansion by the use of high-field magnetic resonance tomography,” the Director of the University Radiological Clinic, Professor Hans Schild, explains. Even now magnetic resonance or MRI scanners are regarded as the ultimate in medical diagnostics. They enable medical staff to look inside the body without the body suffering the effects of radiation. As a result, radiologists can detect diseases in virtually all parts of the body very precisely and at a very early stage – as a rule better than with all the other methods of examination such as ultrasound, X-rays or catheter examinations. The tomography data also give answers to some tricky questions: thus magnetic resonance tomography helps in planning tumour operations, it permits us to detect where the language centre is located in the brain, whether there is narrowing of the coronary vessels and how this can be remedied.
Credit: Jccmoon at English Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons
Basically, NMR tomography makes use of the fact that atomic nuclei – for example the many hydrogen nuclei in the human body – to some extent are like tiny magnets. The spectrometer creates around the body a high magnetic field, in which the miniature magnets line up like compass needles – and they do this all the more the stronger the external magnetic field is. By using a radio-wave impulse (with a frequency roughly comparable to FM radio) the “compass needles” are partly “pushed” out of this alignment. If the radio-wave impulse is switched off, the “compass needles” realign themselves to the magnetic field. This realignment is dependent on the material or tissue involved and can be measured by tomography; from these data a picture of the inside of the body can be reconstructed. The higher the external magnetic field, the more exact the data are. The super-conducting magnet coils of the new spectrometer can create a field of 3 Teslas – compared with the previous norm of a maximum of one and a half Teslas.
In competition with institutions and universities from the US, Japan and Europe the University Radiological Clinic had been able to position itself so convincingly that Philips’ scientific directorate chose Bonn as the first location for its multi-million euro high-field NMR tomography system. “High-field technology is an ideal complement to the current profile of the University of Bonn and will further strengthen its position as an efficient, internationally competitive institution in the life science field,” the radiologist Professor Schild emphasises.
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