I popped to Barcelona on a day trip a few Fridays ago to visit the Clinica Creu Blanca to find out the latest in 3T MRI scanning and how that can be beneficial to the musculoskeletal patients that we treat.
In the UK it is true that - unlike most of the world - MRI scanning is done in Private and NHS hospitals, and those hospitals need to buy the best MRI scanner to work for everyone. The interesting thing is that the higher resolution scanners - which are fantastic for musculoskeletal patients for looking at bones, joints, tendons - aren't the best for the general surgeons who want to look, for instance, at the contents of the abdominal cavity or the chest.3T (3 Tesla).
The way it works in terms of the resolution is that it is based on the candela number so when MRI scanning was first introduced many years ago we started off with 0.25 and 0.5, then went to 0.75, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5 and for the last 10 years we have had 3T or 3-candela scanning. In fact in research institutions such as Imperial (London) scanners can go as high as 7 or 8 Tesla and these will become commercially available over the next 10 years. 3T is far the superior way of examining joint surfaces in looking for intra- and extra-articular pathology of the joints, but we have very little access to it in the UK because 3T scanners are very scarce in number.
So we went to Barcelona to visit one of the leading musculoskeletal clinics specialising in scanning - in fact they have six MRI scanners in the one unit and do 35,000-40,000 scans in a year. We saw the latest Fujitsu scanner - they are 6 months into a 5 year cycle, so it really was state-of-the-art with some fantastic software that allows you to map cartilage damage and show it in far greater detail than we get with the inferior 1.5T scanners.
The idea of visiting Barcelona was to look at the advantages of this technology and then find a way of introducing it locally for our patients in the UK, which is a project I am currently working on and something I am very excited about so watch this space!
I think there are going to be a lot of 3T scanners available in the UK for our patients so the UK can get access to what the rest of the world has currently in terms of state-of-the-art scanning, and I hope we will be leading the way on this.