Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a prototype mini MRI scanner that fits around a patient’s leg.
The team say the device – which uses so-called ‘magic angle’ effect – could potentially help diagnose knee injuries more quickly, and more accurately.
In a proof-of-concept study using animal knees, the results suggest the technology could be used to show all the structures of the knee.
The scientists say the device (which looks like a large metal ring through which a patient places their leg) could help diagnose conditions such as anterior cruciate ligament injuries – particularly common among footballers.
Furthermore, the small size of the device could enable it to be used in local clinics and even GP surgeries, potentially reducing NHS waiting times for MRI scans.
The development of the ‘mini’ MRI scanner was funded by the National Institute for Health Research.
Currently, key components of the knee joints such as ligaments and tendons are difficult to see in detail in the MRI scans, explains Dr Karyn Chappell, a researcher and radiographer from Imperial’s MSK Lab: “Knee injuries affect millions of people – and MRI scans are crucial to diagnosing the problem, leading to quick and effective treatment. However we currently face two problems: connective tissue in the knee is unclear on MRI scans, and people are waiting a long time for a scan.”
Dr Chappell added: “This can cause particular problems for women, as they are at greater risk of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. The reasons for this are unclear, but it could be linked to hormones such as oestrogen making ligaments more elastic, leading to more joint injuries.”
Image Credit: Kate Wighton | Imperial College London