Michigan State Unveils Large-Animal Open-Bore MRI

Michigan State University's (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine is now armed with what it says is the first large-animal, open-bore MRI ever at an academic institution, a move that will allow veterinarians to tackle research questions and greatly impact both animal and human health.

The MRI unit, which became fully operational in August, has a 70-centimeter opening that is nearly 50% larger than the standard MRI. It will allow doctors and researchers at the college to analyze larger animals, such as horses and cows, as well as small animals. Just as important, said diagnostic imaging section chief Anthony Pease, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVR, will be the ability to study and interpret the images they receive.

"MSU's new open-bore MRI is one of only three in the country and the first at an academic institution," Pease said. "We will be able to look critically for the first time at many animal processes."

The new machine, Pease said, will give veterinarians new insight into how illnesses and injuries affect animals.

"The main benefit is to look at the spinal cord and brain better than we ever have before," he said. "CT imaging has been able to provide information about bone, but now we can image muscle, brain, and spinal cord without invasive procedures.

"Also, we will be able to look at how the animal brain works, how animals sense pain, and how their minds work when they sleep," he noted.

An example of a specific ailment that will be focused on is arthritis, which many animals face. Pease said for the first time, veterinarians at MSU will be able to see articular cartilage in animals to look for early signs of the crippling disease. He added the MRI will continue to give veterinarians valuable insight into treating human ailments as well.

"Everything we learn about animals, we will compare to what is know about people with the hope to treat both humans and animals with similar diseases," he said.

Construction began in January 2009 on the $2-million project, which has been in the works for four years. Now that it is operational, MSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital offers every possible imaging technique, said hospital director Pat LeBlanc, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVA. That includes the new MRI, ultrasound and CT imaging, fluoroscopy, and nuclear medicine.--Jason Cody, University Relations

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