Article offers optimistic look at future lung imaging breakthrough

March 1, 2007

Much of our reporting in Diagnostic Imaging focuses on existing clinical practice or on new developments that advance practice. Now and then, however, we'll write articles covering research that is far from clinical practice but does point to new directions that could lead to significant advancements.

Much of our reporting in Diagnostic Imaging focuses on existing clinical practice or on new developments that advance practice. Now and then, however, we'll write articles covering research that is far from clinical practice but does point to new directions that could lead to significant advancements.

Such is the case with one of this month's feature articles, "Hyperpolarized gas MRI illuminates lung function," page 23. Written by news editor C.P. Kaiser, the article reports on proceedings of a conference held last fall at the University of Pennsylvania.

Although hyperpolarized gas is not approved for clinical use by the FDA, researchers at the Penn conference explained how it is improving our understanding of obstructive pulmonary disease. Experiments with hyperpolarized gas imaging have established, for example, that different phenotypes of asthma may exist. This finding has implications for treatment.

Further, the researchers concluded that the more complete understanding of airway disease facilitated by hyperpolarized gas imaging with MRI could eventually be used to triage patients to more effective therapy. People with severe asthma are much more resistant to treatments than those with mild or moderate asthma, one presenter noted. Knowing the status of these patients beforehand will save time and money and reduce patient frustration.

For those who suffer from asthma or emphysema, these findings offer hope for huge improvements in care and quality of life. For radiologists in practice, they offer a glimpse of a future expansion of their clinical armamentarium, with great potential to help alleviate human suffering.

Mr. Hayes is editor of Diagnostic Imaging.