MRI May Join the Diagnostic Toolkit for Diabetes

A study from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston says that magnetic resonance imaging could become a useful tool for diagnosing diabetes and helping doctors determine the proper course of treatment.

MRI is a non-invasive imaging tool that uses magnetic signals to create images that are “slices” of the human body-pictures that can help healthcare professionals diagnose tumors and other ailments. It is especially well regarded by the medical profession because it doesn’t pose the dangers of X-rays and because it often allows for very early diagnosis when a disease or condition is still quite treatable.

The Massachusetts researchers used MRI to evaluate beta cell mass in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes to determine how much insulin-producing capability they had left. Typically, in type 2s, insulin production is severely reduced, while in type 1s it is almost gone or non-existent.

The MRIs not only determined mass, but also pancreatic inflammation and vascular changes associated with each type of the disease. The study’s authors say that by knowing the actual condition of the beta cells and how many are still functioning, doctors can use MRI to tailor treatments for individual patients.

Their study appears in the August 2009 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

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