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Enhanced MRI reveals nerves that cause pain

mri April 18, 1997
Web posted at: 10:02 p.m. EDT (0202 GMT)
From Correspondent Dan Rutz

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Carole White is relieved to find medical proof for the continuous pain she feels in her fingers, hands and arms.

It comes from a fine-tuned kind of MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, which is like a high-tech X-ray. The enhanced MRI sets the stage for other carefully targeted tests and treatment, giving White the first hope she's had in years.

"It means that, at the risk of sounding maudlin, I have a chance at having a normal life back," White said. "This has severely impacted on my life. I haven't been able to work. I have an infant -- I can't care for him."


Dr. Aaron Filler, a neurosurgeon at the University of California-Los Angeles, made adjustments to the MRI to reveal inner-body structures that, outside of surgery, had been invisible.

"Of all the different tissues in the body, we haven't been able to image nerves very well," Filler said.

And in some cases of chronic pain, not being able see what's wrong can lead to guesswork. Morris Levitt, 84, underwent seven back operations and still suffered relentless pains down one leg.

"They were taking me seriously but ... I think they were stumbling quite a bit along the way," Levitt said of his doctors.


With the enhanced MRI, Filler is able to find the offending nerve and recommend treatment that may be far removed from the part of the body most doctors would aim for first.

The enhanced imaging reveals irritated nerves as bright spots that draw the eye to muscles or other structures which may be injuring the nerve and causing the pain.

Filler hopes the new technology will take the guesswork out of diagnosis and treatment.


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