Helium-free MRI scanners: all change?


For several years now, there have been MRI scanners on the market that use a fraction of the helium of the more widely used helium-hungry scanners. Now fresh research into developing the proposition further has been confirmed, so could low- or no-helium MRI take over at some point? Christian Annesley reports

Magnetic resonance imaging – MRI for short – is used all over the world for imaging of the human body so healthcare practitioners can see what’s happening inside patients with certain red-flag symptoms that need investigation. It has been around for decades and is well-proven and often a life-saver.

What’s also well-known is that conventional MRI scanners consume helium – and so much of it that the 50,000 or so MRI scanners in use in hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world account for about a third of the world’s helium consumption. Most MRI scanners use between 1,500 and 2,000 liters of helium and can consume many liters of helium per hour when in use, taking the lifetime consumption of a scanner to 10,000 liters or more.

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