The only infant-sized MR scanner in the world housed within a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has begun functioning for investigational use at Cincinnati Children’s.

The new scanner will help neonatologists and other pediatric subspecialists learn more about conditions such as brain injury, congenital heart disease, necrotizing enterocolitis, airway disorders, rare lung disease, colorectal malformations and urogenital disorders.

MR scans are vital to several aspects of newborn care. However, performing scans on critically ill and premature infants can become complicated when they have to be moved to other locations within the hospital. Having an MR scanner housed within the NICU will allow imaging for infants too fragile to be transported.

The device was designed by a team of Cincinnati Children’s researchers led by Charles Dumoulin, PhD. A key feature of the new scanner is the ability to perform studies without removing infants from their isolettes.

Now, researchers are developing protocols for scanning the brain and abdomen in patients with acute necrotizing enterocolitis. They also are identifying image markers of pulmonary hypertension in patients with diaphragmatic hernia.