The University of Sheffield in England, UK has commenced the testing of a small MRI scanner for babies in neonatal units.
Part of the two-year research project on the feasibility and benefits of scanning babies in the neonatal unit, the miniature scanner has been developed for better diagnosis and treatment of brain damage in premature babies.
The prototype of the scanner is a result of a partnership between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Sheffield, GE Healthcare and Wellcome.
The small size of the scanner allows it to be placed within or close to the neonatal unit, eliminating the requirement for transport to another ward or hospital.
The professors at the University of Sheffield have worked on the scanner for 12 years.
University of Sheffield Radiology professor Paul Griffiths said: "Babies, particularly with brain problems, are unstable, they can stop breathing or their blood pressure can change in an unpredictable way.
"If that happens it is useful to have neonatal staff who are used to that situation in such close proximity, which will improve safety.
"The MR images provide a more detailed image and can help provide a more accurate diagnosis.
"The motivation to keep going with this project is a belief that at the end we will have something that is better for babies with these types of brain problems."
A prototype of the scanner has also been tested in the US.
It is expected that upon successful completion of the research at Sheffield with positive clinical results on the quality of the images and data, the scanner will be approved for routine clinical use.
Image: A miniature MRI scanner designed for premature babies. Photo: courtesy of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust / Wellcome.