History and Science Behind MRI: Open or Closed Case?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been called one of the most comprehensive and efficacious diagnostic imaging modalities in medical history. It became a viable clinical technique in 1982 and during its relatively short lifetime has become the primary imaging modality for investigations of the brain, spinal cord, spine, cancellous bone, and joints. It is widely used for the identification and staging of tumors, investigations of large blood vessels, and in pediatric studies. Cardiac MR, with its unique ability to provide simultaneous information about anatomy, function, and tissue character, has become a primary or complimentary modality in a wide range of pathologies, such as aortic disease, masses, congenital heart disease, ventricular function, and cardiomyopathies. Unique technical abilities are the driving force behind the rapid clinical acceptance of MRI. It is a completely noninvasive technique capable of producing images with soft tissue contrast seventy to eighty times greater than Computed Tomography (CT) without hospitalization or the use of ionizing radiation. In addition, MR systems can directly image in the coronal, sagittal, axial, or any oblique imaging plane without repositioning (Compunet). Felix Bloch was a theoretical physicist who, in 1946, proposed some very interesting properties for the particles, which make up the nucleus of an atom. Bloch, working at Stanford University, proposed that the protons inside the nucleus of any atom behave like tiny magnets. He mathematically described this magnetism by what are now called Bloch equations (Femano 4). Bloch's equations explain that tiny charged particles in the nucleus of an atom behave as though they spin on an imaginary axis like a top. This causes them to make a very small magnetic field. The connection between atomic particles and magnetic fields was very important to the future development of MRI (Femano 5). At about the same time, Edward Purcell measured an important physical phenomenon for which he coined the term "nuclear Magnetic absorption of energy in bulk materials". To put it simply, he showed that by passing the right type of energy through a material, the material would then respond by giving off energy of its own that he could measure. This is the principle of resonance, which is essential for MRI to work. Resonance is a physical principle that allows the efficient transfer of energy from one object to another, causing the receiving object to vibrate at the same frequency as the sender. Bloch and Purcell shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952 for their significant contributions to the betterment of mankind (Femano 5). Dr. Raymond Damadian, is credited as being the inventor of the first MRI machine, who received the National Medal of Technology and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his pioneering work. In 1972, Dr. Damadian filed for and obtained a patent for scanning the human body with magnetic resonance imaging and formed his own company, FONAR. The first-ever MRI machine, dubbed "Indomitable," is now in the Smithsonian, and has taken its place alongside other notable "firsts" (Kelley 1). Today, the MRI is considered an indispensable tool but acceptance of the technology did not come easily. Even after Dr. Damadian performed the first human body scan in 1977, his accomplishments was greeted with skepticism and dismissed by his peers. Once the potential to detect cancerous tumors was accepted, however, Dr. Damidian had to fight off giant companies such as Hitachi and General Electric to protect his patented technology. Hitachi settled out of court, but the case against GE went to trail in 1995. In a "David vs. Goliath" lawsuit, FONAR won one of the largest patent settlements on record, $128.7 million (Kelley 2). Basically, radio frequency energy is sent through the body of a patient, which is...
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