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Tiny MRI Offers Inside Body Images

September 10, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government has approved sale of a tiny MRI probe that doctors can thread into a patient’s throat to provide extra-clear images from inside the body instead of the standard outside-the-body MRI.

Surgi-Vision Inc.’s miniaturized ``endo-esophageal MRI coil,″ invented by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. The Columbia, Md.-based company said it will begin selling the coil to doctors in January.

While nestling in the esophagus, the tiny probe gives an image of the aorta _ the body’s largest artery _ that is nine times sharper than the standard MRI provides, said Dr. Ergin Atalar, a Hopkins radiologist. Cardiologists are studying whether that clearer image will help doctors in determining who is at risk for heart disease before they get sick, he said.

MRIs, or magnetic resonance imagers, have coils on the machine that act as antennae to pick up electromagnetic signals from the body.

But if doctors could get such an antenna inside the body, closer to the organs they’re trying to see, the MRI would produce a clearer image, Atalar explained.

Other companies have created internal MRI probes for use in the prostate. But Hopkins researchers designed a much tinier version to be threaded down a patient’s esophagus, allowing doctors to view the esophagus and the nearby aorta. Surgi-Vision’s goal is to eventually create even tinier versions to squeeze into other parts of the body.

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