Of the 1.6 million Californians with diabetes, fully half are low-income individuals and one third are elderly. Currently, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the preferred imaging way to diagnose infections of the diabetic foot, a common complication and major contributor to amputation, morbidity, and disability. However, the cost and availability of MRI for rural and underserved patients have limited its use in the treatment of diabetics, even though the practice of teleradiology has increased access to radiologists in most parts of the state.
UC Berkeley Bioengineering Professor Steve Conolly has developed a novel method of MRI known as prepolarized MRI (PMRI) that offers high quality imaging at only one-tenth the cost of conventional MRI. PMRI uses two inexpensive electromagnets to create an MRI scan of the human body and brings the total scanner hardware cost to about $50,000, including materials, labor and manufacturer’s profit. When compared to $1.5M for conventional MRI, PMRI is much more affordable for rural and underserved clinics and safety net hospitals. Image quality obtained through PMRI now equals a 0.5T conventional MRI scanner and offers imaging near metallic implants that is superior to conventional MRI or CT.