Find Everything You Need To Know About MRI

March 17, 2015
Liza Haar

A new, free, website provides comprehensive answers to complex questions about MRI.

Can you answer the question, “Is the MR signal re-emission of absorbed radio waves?” If you’re like most radiologists, probably not.

Allen D. Elster, MD, of Wake Forest Baptist Health in NC, has been fielding questions like these for 30 years. The same questions were asked year after year about the complexities of MRI physics and techniques. Elster originally compiled the answers to these questions in a handout of notes that he would pass out to his residents. In 1994, the notes became a book: Questions and Answers in Magnetic Resonance Imaging. In 2001, Elster and colleague Jonathan Burdette, MD, created the 2nd edition of the book, which still sells today and has been translated into several languages.

“[They] were a huge seller in the radiology community,” Elster told Diagnostic Imaging. “I had so many people tell me they learned MRI physics from my book, which is very rewarding as an educator.”

Twelve years later, in 2013, Elster started working on the MRI questions book for the new world: a website. Elster took a cue from his four children, all in their 20s, and his residents.

“The new generation doesn’t buy text books and lug them around,” Elster said. “They put them on their iPad.”[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"33119","attributes":{"alt":"Allen D. Elster, MD","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_4546353762016","media_crop_h":"312","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3489","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"320","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 156px; width: 160px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"Allen D. Elster, MD","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Just as well, the field changes so quickly that waiting three or four years for a new edition of a book to come out isn’t feasible, he said. The web is a suitable platform for MRI Questions, capitalizing on video and interactive features.

The website, which is free and always will be, Elster said, answers 400 questions that have been asked to him over his decades-long career. Elster has a background in electrical engineering and MR physics, so this is his forte.

“The answers are coming out of my brain,” he said. “And each answer has with it two to three references mostly to the peer-reviewed medical literature. It also incorporates educational materials from manufacturers, so it’s well researched.”

The site has been “soft opened” since November, but Elster has already seen value, garnering more than 40,000 hits a day, he said.

While the questions on the site have come from residents, Elster sees it as more than just an educational tool for people in their early careers. Some of the more complicated questions might stump even academic radiologists well into their career, he said.

“Everyone [can] learn something from it,” he said. “It’s hundreds of pages of text and even if my explanation isn’t sufficient, you can go into some of the references that will take you into very high levels of physics.”

The site is about 80% complete. Elster is still working on the remaining 20% of content but expects to roll it out over the next few months. He also expects to make monthly updates with new topics, like MR spectroscopy and safety and screening.

Elster is most excited about the chance for MRIquestions.com to educate students, physicians, and scientists around the world, many of whom would not have access to the material if published in a traditional book or restricted, for-profit website, he said. “Also, having the material on the web instead of in book form allows me to keep the material current and make it relevant to younger readers who prefer learning through multimedia.”