Story of magnetic resonance imaging device tells of courage and determination

Raimo Sepponen believes that Finnish health technology’s big future requires us to learn from the past.

The young Master of Science and Engineering Raimo Sepponen read through scientific articles one after another. He was interested in new methods which could be used for diagnosing internal haemorrhages without requiring surgical measures. By chance, one discovery caught his attention. Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMR) was still a new research method at the end of the 1970s. It could be used to view the water distribution in body tissue. Sepponen wandered if this could be a solution, and decided to find out more by heading to London for the first international conference on the topic.

Raimo Sepponen was working at that time for Instrumentarium Ltd., which made the bold long-term decision to shift from importing to developing new export products. An international survey was carried out by the company to find potential problems that they could seek to solve, and a non-invasive diagnosis method and device for internal haemorrhages was chosen as one development project. Before the development of present-day magnetic resonance imaging devices, internal haemorrhages could generally only be diagnosed through surgical operations.

‘For example, diagnosis of a haemorrhage in the abdominal cavity was generally done using a physiological saline solution. When the solution was taken out of the abdominal cavity, the bloodiness of the liquid was used to decide whether the patient had a internal haemorrhage or not,’ Sepponen remembers. Haemorrhages within organs or within the head, however, could not be detected using this method. Precise information could not be obtained, and so the patient instead had to be operated on in order to see where the haemorrhage was.

The company and the researchers were certain that this was a problem that was worth solving, even though not even all doctors were in agreement on the need for such an invention. A doctor at the Töölö Hospital Trauma Centre stated that a device for observing internal haemorrhages was not needed because ‘we simply make a small hole, peak in and see if there is blood or not.’

Read more here from Riikka Hopiavaara’s original article.