New MRI purchase approved

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Carle and the University of Illinois have approved funding to buy a 7 Tesla MRI scanner.

The new MRI will be one of six 7T MRI scanners in the nation once it’s built, and the only one in the state of Illinois.

Dr. Tracey Wszalek, the director of the Beckman Institute’s Biomedical Imaging Center, said the new MRI will advance critical research on brain abnormalities.

“This kind of technology will allow us to make a diagnosis much earlier,” she explained. “It’s a stronger magnet, so it gives you a better resolution. It takes a better picture.”

Dr. Graham Huesmann, a neurologist at Carle, said the equipment will especially help people who have epilepsy.

“In epilepsy, about a quarter of the people don’t respond to any of the medications,” Huesmann said. “So, then we start looking at the surgical options, taking out the part of the brain where the seizures are coming from. The tricky part of that is finding which part of the brain.”

Huesmann said one in 10 people will suffer from a seizure in their lifetime, and one in 22 will be diagnosed with epilepsy.

“The most devastating part of having epilepsy is the unpredictability of it,” he said. “If you have a seizure more frequent than every six months, you can’t drive. That really limits what you can do, especially if you live in a rural area.”

Huesmann is already fielding calls from other hospitals in Illinois that want to use the new MRI. He said it will take roughly 18 months to build the new scanner.

“There’s excitement not just here, but also in the whole state for this machine,” he said.

The 7T MRI scanner will also be able to help patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries, by picking up subtle abnormalities that scanners with a lower resolution might not be able to see.

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