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Special report: MRI innovations are more personalized than ever

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | October 02, 2013
International Day of Radiology 2012
From the October 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

In one study, preoperative MRI was associated with higher rates of mastectomy. Radiologists love the clear images MRI gives of the breast, but the amount of detail they show may lead to unnecessary biopsies and ultimately to unneeded surgeries.

“We found that when a woman with breast cancer undergoes an MRI, additional biopsies are often obtained because of abnormalities identified on the MRI. These abnormalities are frequently not related to the breast cancer, so many patients undergo unnecessary biopsies,” says study leader Todd Tuttle. “As a result, many women who were good candidates for breast-conserving treatment ultimately decide to have a mastectomy to avoid additional biopsies.”

When used appropriately, breast MRI may have some benefits for the right patient, Tuttle says.

“Breast MRI can detect cancer in the opposite breast in about 3 percent of patients who didn’t have the cancer detected in a mammogram or physical examination,” says Tuttle. “It may be useful for breast cancer screening in some high-risk women as well. But right now, breast MRI is used too frequently.”

OEMs agree that breast MRI isn’t for all patients, but can be helpful for certain patients, such as those with dense breasts.

If trends in Europe are any indication of what’s to come stateside, it’s worth noting that MRI for breast imaging is already common in the EU, says Richard Hausmann, president and CEO of GE Healthcare‘s global MR business unit.

“I think there’s a huge value for patients who have dense breasts who could not be easily diagnosed with mammography, who have family history to do breast MRIs,” says Hausmann.

In addition to women’s health, OEMs have also seen an increase in MRI for men’s health issues, especially prostate cancer.

“We see that the system is used more and more in approaches for prostate imaging, where you want to localize the lesions based on MR volumetric and diffusion imaging,” says Philips’ Folkers.

Head games
Scanning with a purpose can also mean looking for different kinds of information. Experts say that radiologists are moving away from just using MRI as a visual and towards taking a more quantitative approach.

“Today, MR images are basically assessed or reviewed qualitatively,” says Toshiba’s Narayan. “But now, things like wanting to quantify fat and water, iron in the liver and the heart, those things are becoming more and more important. Studies based on quantification, those are all things that will continue to increase.”

That trend is particularly evident in the latest brain imaging techniques being used in research settings today. In the realm of neuroscience, MRI can help show how the brains of patients with mood disorders like schizophrenia contrast with healthy brains.

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