Many long term runners have developed arthritic conditions in their knee joints that eventually prevent them from running. Even with the best MRI scans available, it is often hard to get an accurate description of exactly what is going on. The result is a diagnosis of “you have a bum knee” and a prescription of “try swimming”. I suspect many runners like me are frustrated with the imprecision and long for better diagnostics and cures. The Mayo Clinic has just made a large stride in this direction with new technology developed jointly with IBM.
In December, 2003 the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota announced it has developed a series of magnetic resonance imaging devices that make it easier to diagnose injuries and diseases affecting wrists, forearms, elbows, hands, and fingers. I don’t know if knees were left out accidentally or if they are not included. If they are not included, I am confident that they will included at some point. The devices will be sold to other medical centers nationwide. Named Mayo Clinic BC-10 MRI Coils, the sophisticated new devices will be able to take detailed pictures of a particular part of the body, producing high resolution images.
The images will improve a physician’s ability to see small structures such as tiny ligaments and nerves in the hand. Seeing the fine details makes possible more accurate diagnosis of injuries and diseases, and in some cases, eliminating the need for invasive diagnostic procedures such as arthroscopy, which is often used to gain a visual examination of the interior of a joint with a specialized surgical instrument.
Mayo has been using the new coils clinically for some time to diagnose cartilage degeneration, nerve compression, ligament injuries, tendon abnormalities, tumor detection, bone injuries and scarring within the wrist. “Accurate diagnosis is the critical forerunner to effective medical treatment, which is why Mayo focused on improving the diagnostic capabilities of magnetic imaging,” says Kimberly Amrami, M.D., a radiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. This is the first of a series of MRI coils Mayo is developing to improve the accuracy and thoroughness of imaging diagnoses.
Mayo’s partner in the project is IBM Corporation. IBM industrial design engineers helped to optimize the functionality of the new devices. For example, the IBM engineering team suggested adding windows to the sides of the device that enable technicians to better view and align patient anatomy within the coil. “This effort represents years of medical research and a great collaboration between a team of Mayo clinicians and IBM engineers,” says Samuel Prabhakar, director of system solutions, IBM Engineering & Technology Services. “We look forward to a continued collaboration, including developing more designs with the goal of improving patient care.” IBM will also be manufacturing the coils at it’s plant in Rochester, Minnesota. Revenue Mayo receives from this device will be used to support Mayo’s clinical practice, medical research, and educational activities.