World’s smallest MRI scans the brains of new-born babies

The Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield holds one of only two neonatal MRI scanners in the world. The compact MRI scanner was purpose-built for imaging the brains of premature babies.

The concept of a dedicated neonatal MRI scanner was developed more than a decade ago by Professor Paul Griffiths and Professor Martin Paley of the University of Sheffield. The scanner was recently built by GE Healthcare and funded by the Wellcome Trust. So far around 40 babies have been imaged using the scanner.

Currently ultrasound is used to scan the brains of new-born babies, however, Professor Griffiths said that MRI scans show the structures of the brain and abnormalities more clearly.

Professor Griffiths stated that whilst ultrasound is cheap, portable and convenient, some parts of the brain cannot be viewed using this method. He said: “From a diagnostic point, the big advantage is that MRI is able to show a wider range of brain abnormalities, in particular those which result from a lack of oxygen or blood supply.”