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Western to talk MRI
By Tola Afolabi
For two Western professors, two solid years of research has all boiled down to a single presentation to be made at a conference this week.
Chris Mechefske, assistant professor in the department of mechanical and materials engineering along with Brian Rutt of the Robart's Research Institute, examined methods of reducing the noise of Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines. The machines are used to scan medical patients for potential diseases such as cancer, Mechefske explained.
"The noise levels in MRI images are excessive at the moment and are only due to get worse," he said. "Noise levels are approaching a point where there could be temporary or permanent hearing loss in the patient. Earplugs are effective only to a point.
"Our early results suggest noise could be actually detrimental to the images," he added. "Noise causes fluctuation to the magnetic field."
Two research papers outlining their findings will be presented this week at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine in Denver, Colorado, Mechefske said. "Basically, it's a meeting of scientists who work with MRIs," he said.
The conference was a way of presenting their findings to the scientific community. "[It's] just one of many methods of getting our results out there to the rest of the scientific community and telling them what we're up to," Mechefske said.
He added this was the second conference in which they would present their findings. "The hope is that the result of all this, is that [it will] bring closer collaboration with ourselves and MRI [manufacturers]," he said.
Their research has received a positive response so far, Mechefske said. "There has been significant interest from others, including the manufacturers of MRIs," he said.
However, MRI technicians are citing claustrophobia as a bigger problem than noise. "[Noise is] a problem, but patients don't refuse to scan because of the noise," said Elaine Buschner, an MRI technologist at the London Health Sciences Centre.
John Butler, technical co-ordinator of MRIs at St. Joseph's Health Centre, said he agreed. "As far as the patient is concerned, the biggest concern for them is claustrophobia," he said.
Mechefske said he was aware of problems with claustrophobia, but was not directly involved in research to remedy the problem.
Last year, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada awarded Mechefske and Rutt a grant totalling $243,155 for their research on acoustic noise characterization and reduction in MRIs, said Arnet Sheppard, manager of news bureau at NSERC.