Children's Health

New Diagnostic Technology Available

Neonatal Magnetic Resonance Imaging Device One of Just 12 in the United States

A new medical device at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is changing the face of neonatal medicine in West Michigan. The Neonate Imaging Sub-System (NISS) is a specially designed incubator enabling the tiniest babies, some as small as two pounds, to safely receive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to evaluate brain development and detect abnormality. This device is one of only 12 in the country.

MRI coils in the NISS incubator are designed specifically for newborns and produce extremely detailed images of the brain. Pediatric radiologists are better able to diagnose a developmental abnormality or brain injury with information from MRI. This enables neonatal physicians to intervene or begin treatment earlier.

“Babies born prematurely are at risk for a variety of health problems,” said Brad Betz, M.D., medical director, radiology, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “MRI is the most accurate test to evaluate brain injury from premature birth. The instability of fragile newborns had prevented us from transporting patients from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to the radiology department. The NISS changes everything.”

The NISS is essentially a NICU on wheels, and is designed for seamless and safe transport of neonatal patients. The NISS includes an MRI compatible incubator, ventilator, vital signs monitor and infusion pumps. The incubator is temperature controlled to meet the needs of fragile infants. The entire unit can be placed into an MRI scanner enabling the infant to be monitored and medically supported while the scan is completed.

“Information is critical to clinical decision making,” added Betz. “As a radiologist, the ability for me to provide my colleagues – neonatologists, neurologists and neurodevelopmental pediatricians – with this level of detail is phenomenal. The image quality and detail of an MRI far exceeds the ultrasound capability we previously used.”

Premature infants will continue to be screened with a head ultrasound. The MRI scan complements ultrasound and will be conducted at 40 weeks of age. The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital NICU is one of the largest neonatal centers in the United States with 95 beds. More than 1,200 critically ill or premature newborns are admitted annually.

“This technology truly takes neonatal care to the next level,” said Ed Beaumont, M.D., division chief, neonatology, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “The NISS enables us to provide the highest quality medicine for our patients, and it gives physicians a complete picture of a child’s health.”

In addition to providing exceptional diagnostic information, the NISS to will help physicians at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital contribute to the pool of research regarding early brain development and neurodevelopmental outcomes.