Portable MRI could help remote areas

A HOME-GROWN innovation in magnetic resonance imaging could soon bring the vital medical technology to remote areas like mine sites around Australia.

University of Queensland Professor of biomedical engineering, Stuart Crozier, was last week awarded a coveted Clunies' Ross Award for his innovation.

Professor Crozier and his team worked for five years to create a portable MRI unit that could be vital in identifying minor injuries in regional areas.

He said the technology was about the half the cost of a traditional MRI unit, and was less than half the size and weight of the massive units used in capital cities.

People needing MRI scans in regional areas were usually forced to travel to large cities to scan for injuries like broken arms and legs.

Prof Crozier said the technology was a huge step forward, and was likely to be used by patients injured after motorcycle crashes or falling off horses.

He said the technology could also be used in remote mine sites for minor injuries, as long as trained staff were on hand to operate it.

"It's quite a lot smaller than the traditional MRI units, so all you really need is a small room, and electricity supply and a trained operator.

"The patient can sit in a chair like a dentist's chair, and it will scan their arms, legs and body for injuries.

"It could be used for elderly people or those with sporting injuries, and it saves them time when they might have otherwise had to travel to a city."

While the technology was available to buy in Australia, it has only recently been used in North America and Europe so far.

The award is an exclusive one for the beset scientific innovations from Australians that could result in major improvements for society.

Prof Crozier said it was great for his team to be recognised for their work, but quite humbling to be added to a list of such great scientists.

The Clunies' Ross Awards also recognised the efforts of Peter Blamey in artificial hearing, Gideon Chitombo in safe mining and Sir William Tyree in electrical engineering.

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