From the The Local:
Berlin’s Charité Hospital has achieved a world-first by creating MRI images of a baby being born in order to provide extraordinary insights into the birthing process. A team comprised of obstetricians, radiologists and engineers have built an “open” MRI scanner that allows a mother-to-be to fit fully into the machine and give birth there, the hospital announced on Tuesday. The MRI scanner has already taken unique images of the body of a mother and the movement of her baby through the birth canal to the point where its head emerges into the world. The birth that took place in the scanner went smoothly and both mother and baby were in good health, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The birth was the culmination of a two-year project by the research team. MRI uses powerful magnets to magnetise some atoms in the body which makes them detectable to radio waves. Importantly, it can make cross-section images of a subject, showing intricate detail of soft tissue and bones in the body. The team built a special “open MRI” scanner, a new type of machine whose open structure had the necessary space for the mother to give birth.
The new machine will enable the researchers to study in greater detail how the baby moves through the mother’s pelvis and down the birth canal - issues that have long been studied and debated. The hospital’s Institute for Radiology and Obstetrics Clinic will work closely together on the project. Among other benefits, it should help researchers to understand why about 15 percent of pregnant women need a Caesarian section because the baby does not progress properly into the birth canal.
medGadget says that the scanner used was a modified version of a Philips Panorama high field Open MRI.
More from the Philips News Center: [emphases are mine]
This operation was the culmination of two years of research and development work by the “open high-field MRI” task force specialising in radiology. “We had to develop a new type of foetal surveillance monitor whose measuring technology is not adversely affected by the extremely strong magnetic field of the MRI scanner,” says project manager Felix Güttler in explaining one of the challenges the team faced. The Philips Avalon CTS cordless monitoring system, which was used with the appropriate modifications, provided doctors and midwives with vital information throughout the birth about the child’s heart tones and movements, the strength of contractions, as well as the mother’s blood pressure.
“The ability to monitor the progress of a birth by magnetic resonance imaging was made possible by the open high-field MRI scanner from Philips,” emphasises PD Dr. Ulf Teichgräber, senior physician at the Institute of Radiology at the Charité Hospital. “Unlike other conventional MRI scanners, it does not have a typical tube shape, but rather has an open design in which patients enjoy an unrestricted 360 degree view.” This open design also allows good access to the mother and child from all sides throughout the birth - a key criterion for the doctors treating the patient.
Specialists from Philips were also present during this unusual event because the medical imaging of the MRI scanner had to be specially adapted for this unique birth. “This was also a very special moment for Philips Healthcare because it is not every day that we experience such milestones in medical research where there is such a focus on our solutions,” says Ivar Nackunstz, Business Development Manager of Philips. “The open high-field MRI task force at the Charité Hospital has developed many technical and clinical solutions for interventions in our panorama and helped to make the outstanding quality of the images produced by magnetic resonance imaging useable for completely new areas of application.”
The task of this interdisciplinary group of researchers is now to conduct further investigations to examine the preconceived ideas which have been formed since the 19th century regarding the birth process and movements of the unborn child in the mother’s pelvis. One of the aims of the scientists is to gain a better understanding in future of why in 15 percent of all births there is a stalled labour which makes it necessary to deliver the baby by Caesarean section.
Over the past decade or so, with the advent of better MRI scanners and faster scanning protocols, dynamic MRI has been tried, and perfected, for a range of moving structures in the human body. The commonest uses for dynamic MRI have been in musculoskeletal imaging. But dynamic MRI has also been used to study the beating heart and to study the pelvic floor muscles. MR Defecography is one such example [ Experience of 4 Years with Open MR Defecography: Pictorial Review of Anorectal Anatomy and Disease. July 2002 RadioGraphics, 22,817-832 - full text]. Personally, I tend to agree with a comment in the Wikipedia article on Defecography:
More recent techniques involve the use of advanced, cross-sectional imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging [This video is an example of MRI defecating proctography]. Using MRI for this is considered by many to be an outrageous waste of medical resources.
But then, research-oriented minds forging ahead to further broaden the limits of scientific knowledge had already studied the male and female genitals during coitus and female sexual arousal using MRI back in 1999 [BMJ 1999;319:1596-1600- fulltext - Graphic images. NOT SAFE FOR WORK].
It was only a matter of time before someone with the resources, time and willing subject did something like this.
I cannot contemplate any conceivable clinical scenario wherein a pregnant woman in the throes of labour would have to be subjected to an MRI, but as the news reports say, such studies will be invaluable in helping us better understand the heretofore mysterious (some would say magical) phenomenon of birth.
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