Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Battlefield MRI

Ultra-low magnetic field MRI technology delivers medical imaging to the places it's needed most
April 23, 2015
Battlefield MRI

New low-field MRI technology should be portable enough for provisional combat-support hospitals and hospitals in developing countries

“The Los Alamos group and others have indicated that ultra-low field MRI can actually produce images with better contrast, albeit lower signal, than high-field MRI, and that some anatomical characteristics might only be visible with the help of the lower fields,” says Espy.

Traditional MRI machines have multiple advantages over other scans for detecting changes in soft tissue, and early intervention for even mild brain injuries has been shown to significantly improve a patient’s long-term prognosis. However, these machines are expensive and their high magnetic fields are not safe for injuries involving metal (think shrapnel), which also rules out unconscious patients for whom a medical history is unknown. Could weaker magnetic fields be used? Actually, yes. In fact, Los Alamos experts in ultra-low field MRI are developing smaller, less expensive systems that may be better suited for the battlefield setting and beyond.

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