One of only two miniature MRI scanners in the world used on babies in Sheffield

A groundbreaking miniature scanner is being used on babies in Sheffield
A groundbreaking miniature scanner is being used on babies in Sheffield
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A groundbreaking miniature MRI scanner for babies is being used in Sheffield.

The scanner at the Jessop Wing Maternity Hospital in Sheffield is one of only two in the world and is being used as part of a two-year research project into the feasibility and benefits of scanning babies.

Paul Griffiths, Professor of Radiology at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Martyn Paley, Professor of BioMedical Imaging also at the University of Sheffield, have been working on the concept and design of the scanner for 12 years.

The scanner is smaller than a standard MRI scanner, meaning it can be situated within or close to a neonatal unit, and allow new-born babies to be scanned without having to be moved to another part of a building or another hospital.

It means scans can be performed more quickly and the risks and difficulties associated with moving vulnerable babies are reduced.

The MRI images provide more detailed clinical information than a traditional bedside ultrasound scan, which used to be carried out.

Susie Thoms’ son Toby was scanned as part of the research study, after being born six weeks early.

Susie, from Sheffield, said: “Not having to leave the department was a massive advantage because having to transfer elsewhere at what is already a difficult time would be a lot of extra stress for Toby, myself and the teams involved.

"You can get so much information from the MR images and see incredible detail.

"Toby coped with the scan really well and the care he received was absolutely brilliant on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Care Baby Unit. I didn't have any hesitation about taking part as I think doing this research, and possibly benefitting other parents and babies in the future, is very important.

"Toby is now back home, his feeding tube has recently been removed and he is doing really well."

Professor Griffiths said: “Babies, particularly those with brain problems, are unstable - they can stop breathing or their blood pressure can change in an unpredictable way.

“If that happens it is useful to have neonatal staff who are used to that situation in such close proximity, which will improve safety.

“The MR images themselves provide a more detailed image and can help offer a more accurate diagnosis. The motivation to keep going with this project is a belief that at the end we will have something that is better for babies with these types of brain problems.”