A new system that enables medics to image difficult areas of the body, which could potentially improve the way procedures such as knee replacement surgery are carried out, is being developed by researchers at Imperial College London.
The team is making a new type of compact, low-cost magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system for hospitals that could improve the way that joints including knees and elbows are scanned. The new system could help doctors to make more informed decisions about surgery, which could improve outcomes and recovery times for patients.
The team say the finished MRI instrument will be the size of a coffee table, fitting neatly around the knee. Standard hospital MRI machines are currently the size of a small car and cost around £900,000 – a significant portion of which pays for installation. The new machines will be cheaper to manufacture, costing only an estimated £200,000. The features of the new MRI device including small size and low power requirements mean installation costs could be minimal, say the researchers.
Each year the NHS carries out more than 70,000 knee replacement surgeries in the UK. However, it is difficult for doctors to image parts of the body that have high collagen content – such as ligaments and tendons in knees and elbows – using standard MRI technology.
As ligaments inside the knee cannot be imaged in enough detail to be sure of how robust they are, doctors often opt for a full replacement to ensure the end result is a working knee. This can increase healthcare costs and impact on patient recovery times.
It is difficult to image parts of the body with a high collagen content using standard MRI devices