If you are a clinician and want to look at your patient’s lungs, your options have historically been limited.
With conventional X-rays or MRIs, the organs appear mainly as dark cavities in the chest. With CT scans, the snapshots are a little better, but the low dose radiation this is part of the process so that CT cannot be used routinely for children.
The lungs, with their mixture of water, gas, and tissues down to paper, do not have a good image with conventional MRIs.
Now, Professor Alexei Ouriadov of Western physics and astronomy department in the Faculty of Science is establishing a solution that could revolutionize the detection of lung diseases by doctors and how to treat them.
It’s xenon, one inert gas it is most often used in high intensity lights and photographic flashes.
When xenon is hyperpolarized and used as a contrast agent on MRI, the lungs appear illuminated as colored lights. Any structural or functional problem illuminates exponentially better than with ordinary MRIs.
Even better, the scans offer a live insight into how the lungs work, how well they transfer oxygen that gives life to red blood cells.
“We get high-resolution information about the lung and we can visualize how it works,” said Ouriadov, who leads the research to understand the benefits of xenon imaging.
Patients breathe a mixture of xenon gas and hold their breath for 10 seconds while the MRI scanner takes their picture. The patient’s body absorbs and dissolves the inert xenon in the same way it handles oxygen, Ouriadov said.
Interestingly, the patient’s body harmlessly absorbs and dissolves inert xenon, just as it handles oxygen, so other organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys can be xenon images. Ouridov said his team is also exploring the use of xenon to help get brain perfusion images.
The U.S. Federal Drug Administration recently approved the use of xenon-129 for imaging in humans, and Ouriadov believes it’s only a matter of time before Health Canada approves it.
Gas is relatively inexpensive, costing about $ 20 per dose.
The problem is that not all facilities would have the experience or equipment to hyperpolarize xenon.
“Once we have approvals, we believe people will be increasingly interested in investing in this direction of research,” Ouriadov said. “I think maybe in five years it should be a clinical tool. I’m trying to do everything I can to speed up this practice.”
University of Western Ontario
Citation: Xenon-assisted MRI captures sharper images of lungs (2021, June 2) retrieved June 2, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-xenon-aided-mris-snap- sharper-images.html
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