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Improved MRI technology boosts stroke diagnosis

Stroke imaging
Diffusion Weighted Imaging  
March 19, 1998
Web posted at: 9:58 a.m. EDT (0958 GMT)

AUGUSTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Dozens of medical facilities across the United States are making use of a relatively new magnetic imaging technique aimed at preventing strokes -- the third leading cause of death in the country after cancer and heart disease.

The new technology, known as Diffusion Weighted Imaging, is based on the well-established Magnetic Resonance Imaging system and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last summer.

The Diffusion Weighted Imaging method makes use of a new highly powered magnet, which produces rapid magnetic pulses that allow doctors to better scan the brain of a stroke victim and locate what part is affected.

What was the leading cause of death in the United States in 1900?

A. tuberculosis
B. gastritis
C. pneumonia/influenza

"What we're trying to do with this newer technology ... is to identify areas of the brain that aren't getting enough blood very early and to target therapies to try and reverse the injury," said Dr. Fenwick Nichols of the Augusta-based Medical College of Georgia, which is one of about 50 health facilities nationwide that uses this diagnostic technique. (icon 187K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Dr. Nichols: "I'm using this newer technique... "
video icon 663 K / 17 sec. / 160x120
QuickTime movie

The benefit of the Diffusion method is that it provides doctors with more detailed information. While a conventional MRI system can make an image every one to two seconds, the Diffusion system can create an image in one-tenth of a second.

Dr. Eugene Binet explained that once the computer has generated an image of the brain based on the resonance data, it's seen as an area of hyper-intensity, which is quite white, as opposed to the rest of the brain, which appears gray and black. (icon 221K/20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Rhodes dancing
Rhodes dances with friends in Augusta, Georgia  

In the case of 72-year-old Betty Rhodes, Diffusion Weighted Imaging allowed doctors to pinpoint the very clogged artery that caused her stroke. And because of the relatively early detection, treatment was given immediately. (icon 102K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The result is that Rhodes now again graces the dance floor in her home town of Augusta.

The series of tests that Rhodes underwent lasted about 20 minutes and research indicates that treatment within the first three hours of the onset of a stroke can reverse the damage.

Correspondent Alesia Stanford contributed to this report.


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