How Does Helium Work in MRI Machines?
The latest MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners enable clearer, more accurate images of internal organs, soft tissues, and ligaments to be captured that may not be as visible on CT (computed tomography) scans.
The importance of MRI machines in the medical field is unquestionable since approximately 40 million MRI scans are performed in the United States each year. In addition, the industry has a projected 6% job growth for MRI technicians and radiologists from 2021 to 2031.
But how exactly do MRI scans work and what role does helium play in achieving accurate scans? Armed with our trusted KnowHow™, nexAir is ready to walk you through the process.
How an MRI Scanner Works
An MRI machine combines magnetic and electromagnetic fields for accurate and detailed visualizations of the different organs and tissue in the body. It’s a non-invasive way of getting high-resolution and multi-angle imagery for diagnostic purposes.
Physicians often recommend MRI scans to assess damage after a heart attack, to determine the source of a seizure, or to locate the presence of a tumor.
During an MRI scan, the patient lies on a moveable table which steadily enters a large, tube-like opening. Once the table has entered the MRI machine, the surrounding magnetic field temporarily alters the alignment of the hydrogen atoms found in the patient’s body. Then, the radio waves stimulate the atoms to produce cross-sectional images — and possibly 3D images — that medical professionals can use for diagnosis.
An MRI scan lasts an average of 20 to 60 minutes. Some tests can be shorter while others can be much longer, depending on what the scan is for.
What Helium Does for MRI Machines
Helium serves various purposes across a wide range of industries — the medical field is one of them. In fact, helium is commonly used in MRI machines and scanners.
Liquid helium has a notably low boiling point of -269°C or around -452.2°F so it’s perfectly capable of cooling down MRI magnets. It is effective in bringing down the electrical resistance of these magnets to virtually nonexistent levels.
But how exactly does liquid helium do that?
MRI machines each have a magnet and wires that can conduct electric current. They thus have a magnetic field that is super conducive when the wires inside the MRI machine hits really low temperatures. Considering the extremely low boiling point of liquid helium, it’s more than capable of getting the job done.
For an MRI machine to keep going, it typically utilizes around 1,700 liters of liquid helium. Keeping in mind just how frequently MRI machines are used and how vital they are in diagnosing and monitoring health conditions, it comes as no surprise that the medical field is one of the most active users of helium.
nexAir: Meeting All Your Helium Needs
At nexAir, we help you improve efficiency, drive growth, boost profitability, and Forge Forward through training, quality gases, and access to state-of-the-art equipment. Contact us today for inquiries about helium gases.
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