A new type of MRI scanner could revolutionize the way that we approach knee injuries. The new device takes advantage of something that the team behind it are calling ‘the magic angle effect’. It is hoped that the new machine will make it easy to quickly and reliably diagnose knee injuries.
The team has just conducted a proof-of-concept study which used animal knees as a stand-in for human’s. The results suggest that the magic angle effect can be exploited to provide images of all the structures contained in the knee and could have limitless applications in people.
Sports players and the elderly, two otherwise very different groups of people medically, are both prone to bone injuries, and knee injuries in particular. The device itself consists of a large metal ring, patients simply put their leg through the ring and the device can be used to image any part of the knee.
As well as the simple and easy imaging of multiple areas using one device, the small and compact design of the device means that it could soon be appearing in walk-in clinics, doctors offices and available to nursing homes and elderly care facilities through businesses like Bosshard Medical, who provide medical supplies for seniors.
What’s New in This Device?
Prior to this device, there have been certain areas of the knee that have been difficult to image using traditional equipment. For example, the individual components of the knee joint have presented a problem for traditional imaging techniques – MRI scans and the like. However, with this new device, these once-difficult areas are now much easier to see and diagnose.
Patients who are currently sent for MRI scans – a harmless but not exactly pleasant procedure, could be much better served by the magic angle device. MRI’s combine strong magnets and radio waves to align water molecules in the patient’s body and use radio waves to induce a signal. This signal is then used to build a highly-detailed image of the patient’s body. This enables us to look in great detail at many areas of the body – significantly the brain.
But the MRI is not a perfect tool, the kind of structures in the knee that can be seen with the magic angle are generally black on an MRI scan. These parts of the body simply don’t generate enough of a signal for the MRI machine to be able to pick it up, and therefore appear as black on the scan. This new device overcomes this by utilizing the magic angle.
Researchers have discovered that these areas can be made to appear bright rather than dark, as long as the scanner is placed at a certain angle to the knee, or rather to the collagen fibres within it. When the scanner is placed at 55 degrees, it is able to detect the water in the ligament and produce a detailed image.
This new device could have serious repercussions for the way that we think about knee injuries and how we approach their diagnosis and treatment. The portable nature of the scanner could also set a precedent for other devices.