7 February 2001

For the first time in Australia, doctors later this year will be able to "see" the human heart using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

This follows a $4.5 million agreement announced today between The University of Queensland and Uniting Health Care/The Wesley Hospital.

Under the agreement two new MRI machines will be installed at The Wesley Hospital campus in June. The result will be ground breaking advances in cardiac diagnosis, treatment and research - and treatment of stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

The Wesley Hospital General Manager, Dr Jennifer King, said the new MRI technology would give specialists another sophisticated cardiac diagnostic tool. Dr King said MRI was a proven technique in imaging static body organs such as the brain, kidney, and liver. But until now, the heart had eluded MRI imaging.

"Because of the rapid movement of the heart, doctors have been unable to clearly obtain an MRI snapshot of the heart at work. This has been the cardiologists' medical Mt Everest, but now it has been conquered using technology," Dr King said.

She said the new MRI's accuracy and clarity would be particularly valuable in diagnosing heart valve disease, diagnosing aneurysms and in the treatment of babies and children.

The new machines, one of which is the first of its kind in Australia, will enable more research projects to be undertaken, and existing research in acute stroke management, and Alzheimer's disease to be advanced.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay said the University was pleased to join with Uniting Health Care and The Wesley Hospital to create an international centre of excellence in Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

"Wesley has a national reputation for high quality patient care, while the University's Centre for Magnetic Resonance, headed by Professor David Doddrell, is responsible for technologies incorporated in 70 percent of recently installed MRI systems produced in the international $3 billion annual market," he said.

"Their patented probes and gradients are now used throughout the world, and provide jobs for Queenslanders.

"This new initiative will benefit patients, strengthen links between UQ and the Wesley, advance teaching and research, and provide opportunities for the University to further develop sophisticated MRI software and hardware."

Media: For further information or interviews contact: Tracey Hunter (Wesley Hospital), mobile 0419 729 024 or Peter McCutcheon (mobile 0413 380 012