Feature | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | July 09, 2014

World War I German Zeppelin Raids Helped Enable Today’s MRI Systems

MRI imaging benefits from the legacy of post-WWI legislation

MRI, helium, helium supply for MRI

This August marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 1914. A few months after the start of the war, in early 1915, the Germans began using Zeppelins in the first application of strategic bombing over British cities. Zeppelin raids continued over Russia, Belgium, France, Italy and Britain for the duration of the war. These raids ironically paved the way for U.S. government policy that guaranteed access to the cryogenic gas required to operate today’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems

The Achilles heel of the Zeppelin was its use of explosive hydrogen gas, which made these massive craft prone to
spectacular fires when they were shot down. This led the United States to look at using rare and expensive helium when it developed its own Zeppelin air fleet after WWI. Since the United States is one of the primary sources for helium, the supply was limited and its military application was considered very important, the U.S. government created the Federal Helium Reserve in the 1920s to regulate and protect the helium supply. 

Although the threat of mass bombing raids by Zeppelins has long passed into the pages of history, the legacy of the legislation they helped create is still in existence and aids today’s MRI market. 

Last October, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to
reauthorize, extend and improve operations of the Federal Helium Reserve in Texas. Today the need for this bill is more to guarantee the helium supply for high-tech applications, with much of this going toward MRI systems. Helium is a critical component for cooling MRI magnets. The systems must be regularly replenished with helium in order to maintain normal operating temperatures.

Congress’ approval of HR 527, the High Tech Jobs Preservation Act, was seen as a big step toward providing greater assurance of access to domestic supplies of refined helium. The approval was applauded by both the National Electrical Manufacturers Assn. (NEMA) and the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance (MITA), with both organizations including key MRI systems vendors.

Today, the Federal Helium Reserve provides about 42 percent of U.S. crude helium and about 35 percent of the world’s demand. The bill authorizes the reserve to sell helium to private entities. If Congress failed to act on any helium legislation, the Federal Helium Reserve would have ceased operations. U.S. users of helium acquire much of their supply via industrial gas refining companies associated with the reserve.

Helium’s medical uses go beyond MRI, including lung tissue visualization, heart catheterization methods and medical lasers. Outside medicine, it is essential for the aerospace industry, aluminum helium arc welding, and computer chip and optical fiber manufacturing. It is also used in national defense applications such as rocket engine testing and purging, surveillance devices, air-to-air missiles and scientific balloons.

In a statement during debate on the bill last fall, the White House said a shutdown of the program would cause a spike in helium prices that would harm many U.S. industries and disrupt national security programs.  

“The passage of this legislation will safeguard patient access to critical MRI scans that are used to detect, diagnose and treat disease, facilitate medical research at academic institutions around the country that are spearheading life-saving innovations, and prevent a needless disruption to the U.S. economy that would have put millions of jobs at risk,” said Gail Rodriguez, executive director of MITA, in a statement.   

Read the 2016 article, “Huge Helium Discovery Safeguards Future Supply for MRI Scanners.”

Related Content

Sponsored Content | Videos | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | December 07, 2017
Max Wintermark, M.D., professor of radiology and chief of neuroradiology, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, discussed MR
Brain's Appetite Regulator Disrupted in Obese Teens
News | Neuro Imaging | December 05, 2017
December 5, 2017 — Advanced...
Toshiba Launches Vantage Elan Zen Edition MR for Enhanced Patient Comfort
Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | December 05, 2017
Toshiba Medical, a Canon Group company, introduced its newest magnetic resonance (MR) system, the Vantage Elan/Zen...
Siemens Healthineers Introduces GOKnee3D MR Application
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | November 27, 2017
November 27, 2017 — At the 103rd Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America
Samsung Unveils Mobile CT OmniTom at RSNA 2017
Technology | Computed Tomography (CT) | November 26, 2017
Samsung Electronics debuted its OmniTom mobile 16-slice computed tomography (CT) scanner at the Radiological Society of...
Hitachi Healthcare Americas Introduces SynergyDrive MRI Workflow Solution
Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | November 21, 2017
November 21, 2017 — At the 2017 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting, Nov. 26-Dec.
Study Unveils Brain Changes During Extended Space Missions
News | Neuro Imaging | November 14, 2017
November 14, 2017 — More people today are poised to explore space than ever before; those who do will experience the
Synthetic CT Images Suitable for Prostate Cancer Radiotherapy Planning
News | Treatment Planning | November 14, 2017
Spectronic Medical announced that new data for their MRIPlanner software, generating synthetic computed tomography (sCT...
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | November 13, 2017
Aspect Imaging announced last week that it received CE marking for the neonatal-dedicated Embrace Neonatal Magnetic...
Hitachi Healthcare Highlights Benefits of High-Field Open MRI in New Supplement

Click here to view the supplement.

News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | November 13, 2017
A new 24-page publication from Hitachi Healthcare details the benefits of High-Field Open MRI and is now available for...
Overlay Init