Feature | 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

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.   

Related Content

Hitachi Medical Systems America, HMSA, Evolution 5, MRI software platform, Echelon Oval, RSNA 2015

Echelon Oval image courtesy of Hitachi Medical Systems America Inc.

Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)| November 24, 2015
In conjunction with the upcoming Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 2015 exhibition, Hitachi Medical Systems...
Fraunhofer MEVIS, MRI, CaFuR, real-time MRI, beating heart

The software developed by Fraunhofer MEVIS automatically identifies the breathing and heart contraction phases in the data independent of the ECG information. This allows for a fast and easy examination of heart patients. Image courtesy of Fraunhofer MEVIS.

News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)| November 18, 2015
Today, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allows more gentle, precise and cost-effective heart disease diagnosis. However...
Kopp Development, FerrAlert FILM, Ferrogmagnetic Incident Log Manager, Joint Commission standards

The FerrAlert Ferromagnetic Incident Log Manager (FILM) device is designed to work exclusively with Kopp Development's FerrAlert Halo II Plus MRI entryway system, pictured above. Image courtesy of Kopp Development Inc.

Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)| November 17, 2015
Kopp Development Inc. announced the release of the new accessory for their latest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)...
GE Healthcare, MRI, RSNA 2015, Signa Explorer, Signa Creator, Signa Pioneer

Signa Explorer image courtesy of GE Healthcare

News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)| November 16, 2015
At this year’s Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting, GE Healthcare is showcasing continued...
Boston Scientific, CE Mark, MRI conditional labeling, CRT-Ds, ICDs

X4 CRT-D system image courtesy of Boston Scientific

News | EP Lab| October 30, 2015
Boston Scientific Corp. has received CE Mark on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) conditional labeling for the current...
cardiac MRI, heart age, left ventricular change, Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
News | Cardiac Imaging| October 16, 2015
The main pumping chamber of the heart ages differently in men and women, according to a new magnetic resonance imaging...
Kopp Development, FerrAlert Halo II Plus MRI entryway system, ITN

Image courtesy of Kopp Development Inc.

Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)| October 14, 2015
Kopp Development Inc. has released a new entryway system for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) rooms — FerrAlert Halo II...
Medtronic, Evera, ICD, MR-conditional, MRI, FDA approval
Technology | Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD)| September 14, 2015
Medtronic received the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for an implantable cardioverter...
Pie Medical Imaging, Frost & Sullivan, technology leadership, CAAS, cardiovascular diagnostics

CAAS MRV is part of Pie Medical Imaging's suite of imaging solutions for quantitative cardiovascular diagnosis and treatment planning. - See more at: http://www.itnonline.com/content/pie-medical-imaging-recognized-innovati...

News | Cardiac Imaging| September 01, 2015
Based on its recent analysis of the cardiovascular image management market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes Pie Medical...
IMRIS, going concern sale, Deerfield Management Company L.P., imaging and service, robotics intellectual property
News | Cath Lab| August 14, 2015
IMRIS Inc. announced in late July that investment funds managed by Deerfield Management Company L.P. (“Deerfield”) were...
Overlay Init