New, more comfortable MRI

September 9, 2009 8:49:07 PM PDT
Abigail Mentzer, 26, is a company member of the Pennsylvania Ballet. She's been dancing since she 3-years-old and has been performing the Nutcracker since she was eight.

"I love to be on stage. I think that's my favorite part, dancing on stage especially with a big orchestra and live music, she said.

But preparing for shows takes hours of rehearsal and Mentzer said says during last year's Nutcracker season, all her hard work started to take its toll. "I just felt a sharp pain in my leg."

She went to have it checked out at Jefferson University Hospital where doctors are using a new type of MRI called an 'Extremity MRI.'

Typically to image even just a leg, patients have to go into this closed MRI. For many patients, it can make them feel clautrophobic. For kids, they sometimes have to be sedated to keep them calm and still.

But with the extremity MRI it's only the leg or arm that's enclosed. Patients can even watch tv during the procedure.

Mentzer said, "It was quite simple, much easier."

Dr. William Morrison, director of Muscuolo-skeletal radiology at Jefferson Univ. Hospital said teh extermity MRI "helps people remain still because they're comfortable and they're distracted by the television or whatever else they want to do."

And he said it doesn't sacrifice the quality of the image, which can be the case with many open MRIs. Open MRIs give patients more open space but typically use a lower magnetic field.

"When you use a lower magnetic field, you generally get lower image quality so open MRI you sacrifice quality for comfort in this machine you have both," Dr. Morrison said.

The new MRI is especially good for athletes because its high quality image can help detect all kinds of sports injuries. For Abbie, she had a stress fracture and had to take six weeks off from dancing, but now she's healthy and looking forward to the new season and another Nutcracker.

"It's sentimental for me because it was the first ballet I ever saw," Mentzer said, adding, "It's just fun, it's great music, it's a classic."

The extremity MRI at Jefferson is only one of six in the U.S. But it's expected many more centers will also use these in the future.

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