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March is Nutrition Month: St. Michael’s Hospital receives new MRI to be devoted to nutrition centre

Toronto, March 7, 2012

By Kate Taylor

Two new state-of-the-art MRIs – the second and third ones off the General Electric assembly line – have arrived at St. Michael’s Hospital and one will be used primarily for nutrition research.


One of the new MRI machines is hoisted into place last November.
Dr. David Jenkins, director of the hospital’s Risk Factor Modification Centre, said having an MRI for nutrition research will clearly define the effect diet and lifestyle can have on health.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm from patients to enroll in our studies that will be using the new MRI,” Dr. Jenkins said. “They don’t want to hear ‘I think,’ but rather ‘I know from this image that your arteries are clear or your tumor is not growing.”

The new 3-tesla MRIs have double the signal strength of the hospital’s existing MRIs, providing higher quality images and the ability to image things that were not previously possible.

For example, Dr. Jenkins and his team will be able to look at the carotid artery to see if it’s being damaged by cholesterol deposits and monitor tumour growth to see the effects of diet and lifestyle on their size.

Other studies will soon look at whether a low glycemic-index diet can prevent cholesterol build-up in people with diabetes, how diet can reduce liver fat that can lead to cirrhosis and if exercise wears people down as they age.

“The results from these studies will be extremely important for preventing heart attacks and stroke, the early detection and careful monitoring of cancers, especially of the prostate, and tumor progressions, assessing brain function and neurological diseases,” Dr. Jenkins said.

The new MRIs have a 70-cm wide bore, 15 per cent bigger than the current ones, to accommodate patients who can be difficult to scan, such as larger, elderly or very young patients, or those who are in pain and require a larger imaging system.

They are much more comfortable for patients. The cancellation or incompletion rate for MRIs has been between 5 and 10 per cent, largely because of claustrophobia or patients who didn’t fit in the machine.

St. Michael’s will also be the first site in Toronto to have MRI elastography – an extra piece of hardware to measure the stiffness of organs or the amount of scar tissue. Previously, diseases such as cirrhosis or fibrosis in the liver could be diagnosed only through a biopsy.

Dr. Tom Schweizer, a neuroscientist who will also be using the new MRI for his research, said “there is no comparison in image resolution, allowing us to see things we couldn’t before such as the organization and integrity of the small white fiber tracts in the white matter of the brain.”

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.