August 28, 1980
MAGNETIC resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic technique that uses a magnetic field to produce pictures of structures inside the body.
A highly-valued tool, it allows doctors to find out if patients have a variety of conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis or have suffered a stroke without the need for invasive surgery.
Although it was invented and developed by other scientists, the breakthrough in MRI being medically useful happened in Aberdeen in 1980.
A cancer patient from Fraserburgh was the subject of the scan.
Professor John Mallard, who held the Chair of Medical Physics at Aberdeen University, led a research team which developed the world’s first whole-body scanner.
The breakthrough revolutionised how doctors diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions.
The world’s first whole body scanner, developed by his team, was pioneered at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and benefited an estimated 9,000 patients during its 10-year service.
His achievement has been hailed as the biggest step forward in medical diagnosis since the discovery of X-rays 85 years earlier.
The machine creates an image based on the way hydrogen atoms in the body react to the magnetic field and radio waves the MRI creates.
MRI signals can give an image of a single slice of any part of the body, much like a slice of bread in a loaf.
Usually, images are created of several “slices” of an organ or part of the body.
The MRI’s computer can also combine these to build up three-dimensional images.
There are now an estimated 20,000 MRI machines worldwide, carrying out 60 million clinical investigations every year.
But it all started in Aberdeen.