A new $2 million magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy suite acquired by Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Center completes one of the most comprehensive veterinary medical facilities in the United States.
The new MRI is a state-of-the-art system that allows doctors and researchers to collect images of the body at the anatomical, biochemical and molecular level. It is one of the most sophisticated tools modern medicine can use in the fight against injury and disease, including cancer.
"This instrument is unique to veterinary medicine," said Dr. Susan Kraft, associate professor in radiology at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "Less than half of the veterinary teaching hospitals in the country have MRI available, with far fewer having continual, on-site MRI service within the veterinary hospital facility."
Kraft explained that this technology is in great demand among educated pet owners. "Increasingly they are requesting this technology be made available for assessing the medical condition of their pet," Kraft said.
Magnetic resonance imaging uses a magnetic field and radio waves that are gently pulsed into tissues to generate a slight response in the tissue magnetism. As the tissue relaxes back into position, the data for images is gathered. The image can be created using a millimeter-or less-spatial detail, giving doctors a very clear image of soft tissue in any area of the body such as the joints, brain or spine. Diseased tissues react differently than normal tissue, and this difference is what the radiologist will see when reading the image.
"This system is so sensitive that we can detect changes earlier than we would find with a CT scan, for example," Kraft said. "So if tissues are abnormal, we can often detect it-even if it’s not large enough to create a noticeable change on radiographs."
Since MRI uses radio waves, the room has to be specially constructed with metallic mesh built into the walls and windows to contain any stray waves. The magnetic field created by the system is very powerful, which means that staff cannot bring any metal-containing instruments-such as gurneys, oxygen tanks, keys or stethoscopes-into the room.
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy can also be used to evaluate the biochemical composition of tissue. For example, it can measure neuronal markers in the brain, detecting things as sensitive as myelin damage. This biochemical analysis is particularly effective in cancer cases.
Kraft and colleague Dr. Richard Park, professor of radiology, say that in addition to offering full clinical services to the entire hospital, they also will be offering outpatient service to small animal practitioners in the northern Colorado community beginning January 1.
"CSU’s MRI is an incredible diagnostic tool. For clients and veterinarians who think an MRI would be warranted, having access to such a tool close by is a terrific benefit," said Kraft.
The MRI staff has also developed a collaborative relationship with other magnetic resonance facilities on Colorado State’s campus to form the Rocky Mountain Magnetic Resonance organization. The mission of the RMMR is to promote development of new applications of magnetic resonance and to provide education about magnetic resonance.