The History of MRI

by Ali Fazli & Mahdi Ghaffari,
PhD candidates at Polytechnique School of Montreal

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), as one of the great medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, is a method of looking inside the body without using surgery, harmful dyes or X-ray. An MRI scan can be used as an extremely accurate method of disease detection throughout the body. MRIs are able to detect diseased tissue or injury more accurately, safely, and efficiently more than any other medical imaging technique such as X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. A head MRI can often find abnormalities such as brain aneurysms, stroke, tumours of the brain, as well as tumours or inflammation of the spine. The method can also be used to examine the joints, spine and sometimes the soft parts of your body such as the liver, kidneys and spleen. Often, surgery can be deferred or more accurately directed after knowing the results of an MRI scan and that in it may be a good reason to have an MRI. MRI, the premier medical diagnostic imaging method in use today, is a 10+ billion-dollar-per-year industry.

It is a relatively new technology with its foundations beginning during the year of 1946. Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell independently discovered the magnetic resonance phenomena during this year and were later awarded the Nobel Prize in 1952. Up until the 1970s, MRI was being used for chemical and physical analysis. Then in 1971 Raymond Damadian; father of the MRI, showed that nuclear magnetic relaxation times of tissues and tumours differed motivating scientists to use MRI to study disease. The nuclei of atoms as placed in a strong, static magnetic field tend to align with it, much like compass needles. When zapped with a pulse of radio waves, the nuclei absorb energy, become “excited” and change direction. The time it takes them to “relax” and return to their original state can be measured. Because of many different atomic nuclei resonate at a characteristic radio frequency in a given magnetic field.

Damadian first got the idea while using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to scan salt-loving bacteria called halophiles that contain 20 times greater potassium levels than most bacteria. The results were so promising that Damadian realized the technique could be used to diagnose cancer and other diseases in humans. From that time forward, he spent most of his career developing the MRI medical body scanner to achieve this goal. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan awarded the National Medal of Technology jointly to Dr Damadian and Dr Paul Lauterbur for their contributions to the development of MRI.

Raymond Damadian, Larry Minkoff and Michael Goldsmith with "Indomitable" and its iced liquid helium and liquid nitrogen ports: the world's first supercooled, superconducting MR scanner and the world's first MRI machine.

Raymond Damadian, Larry Minkoff and Michael Goldsmith with "Indomitable" and its iced liquid helium and liquid nitrogen ports: the world's first supercooled, superconducting MR scanner and the world's first MRI machine.

The data of the first live human MRI scan of L. Minkoff's chest consisting of 106 data points acquired over four hours and forty five minutes.

The data of the first live human MRI scan of L. Minkoff's chest consisting of 106 data points acquired over four hours and forty five minutes.

With the advent of computed tomography, computer techniques used to develop images from MRI information in 1973 by Hounsfield. Due to all of these technologies required, the first human being MRI examination did not occur until 1977, echo-planar imaging (a rapid imaging technique) by Mansfield, many scientists over the next 20 years developed MRI into the technology that we now know today. Since then, faster computing has made the MRI process much faster. The most significant advancement in MRIs occurred in 2003, when the Nobel Prize was won by Paul C. Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield for their discoveries of using MRIs as a diagnostic tool.

With the advent of computed tomography, computer techniques used to develop images from MRI information in 1973 by Hounsfield. Due to all of these technologies required, the first human being MRI examination did not occur until 1977, echo-planar imaging (a rapid imaging technique) by Mansfield, many scientists over the next 20 years developed MRI into the technology that we now know today. Since then, faster computing has made the MRI process much faster. The most significant advancement in MRIs occurred in 2003, when the Nobel Prize was won by Paul C. Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield for their discoveries of using MRIs as a diagnostic tool.


References:

(Medical_Imaging- MRI history): Brandon Disher, Logan Lenarduzzi, Ben Lewis, and Justin Teeuwen (21.01.2006)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_resonance_imaging#History

http://www.two-views.com/mri-imaging/history.html#sthash.FnL5bQme.dpbs

http://www.fonar.com/news/100511.htm