Revolutionary ‘miniature’ MRI scanner for babies tested in Sheffield

  • MRI baby scanner is one of only two in the world
  • Miniature size scanner means minimal movement of newborns, dramatically reducing risk to babies
  • MRI images provide more detailed clinical information than bedside ultrasound scans allowing more accurate diagnosis

A ground breaking prototype ‘miniature’ MRI scanner for babies has been installed at The Jessop Wing Maternity Hospital in Sheffield.

Susie and baby Toby ThomsThe scanner, which is one of only two in the world, is part of a two-year research project into the feasibility and benefits of scanning babies in the neonatal unit.

Paul Griffiths, Professor of Radiology at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Martyn Paley, Professor of BioMedical Imaging also at the University of Sheffield, have been working on the concept and design of the scanner for 12 years.

The scanner is considerably smaller than a standard MRI scanner, meaning it can be situated within or close to a neonatal unit, and allow new-born babies to be scanned without having to be moved to another part of a building or even another hospital.

This means scans can be performed more quickly and the risks and difficulties associated with moving vulnerable babies are dramatically reduced.

The MRI images provide more detailed clinical information than a bedside ultrasound scan.

Susie Thoms’ son Toby benefitted from the use of the scanner, as part of the research study, after being born six weeks premature by caesarean section and spending a week in neonatal intensive care.

Susie from Sheffield, said: “Not having to leave the department was a massive advantage, because having to transfer elsewhere at what is already a difficult time, would be a lot of extra stress for Toby, myself and the teams involved.

"You can get so much information from the MR images and see incredible detail.

mri scanner"Toby coped with the scan really well and the care he received was absolutely brilliant on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Care Baby Unit. I didn't have any hesitation about taking part as I think doing this research, and possibly benefitting other parents and babies in the future, is very important.

"Toby is now back home, his feeding tube has recently been removed and he is doing really well."

Professor Griffiths, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, said: “Babies, particularly those with brain problems, are unstable – they can stop breathing or their blood pressure can change in an unpredictable way.

“If that happens it is useful to have neonatal staff who are used to that situation in such close proximity, which will improve safety.

“The MR images themselves provide a more detailed image and can help offer a more accurate diagnosis. The motivation to keep going with this project is a belief that at the end we will have something that is better for babies with these types of brain problems.”

The project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, GE Healthcare, and the Wellcome Trust.

If the research is a success, and the quality of the images, data and clinical benefits are proven, it is hoped the scanner will be granted the relevant approvals to enable it to be used on a routine clinical basis in years to come.

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.
A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is one of the UK’s largest NHS Foundation Trusts and one of the largest and busiest teaching hospitals. We have over 16,000 staff caring for over a million patients each year at our five hospitals and in the local community:
The Royal Hallamshire Hospital; The Northern General Hospital; Charles Clifford Dental Hospital; Weston Park Cancer Hospital; Jessop Wing Maternity Hospital

We offer a full range of local hospital and community health services for people in Sheffield as well as specialist hospital services to patients from further afield in our many specialist centres. The Trust is recognised internationally for its work in neurosciences, spinal injuries, renal, cancer, transplantation, neurosciences and orthopaedics.

Thanks to the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been given an overall rating of ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with many services rated as ‘Outstanding'.

This means the Trust is one of only 18 (out of 174 Trusts) to have achieved a Good rating in every one of the five domains which the Care Quality Commission use to rate a NHS organisation:
Safe; Caring; Responsive; Well led; Effective

We are proud to be one of the top 20% of NHS Trusts for patient satisfaction and to have consistently high numbers of our staff and patients who would recommend the Trust for care and as a place to work.
The Trust is a recognised leader in medical research for bone, cardiac, neurosciences and long term conditions such as diabetes and lung disease. We also play a key role in the training and education of medical, nursing and dental students with our academic partners, including the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam. The Trust is a recognised leader in healthcare innovation and is host to a number of national projects including the Perfect Patient Pathway Test Bed, Devices for Dignity, Yorkshire and Humber Genomics Medicine Centre as well as being a partner in the Working Together Vanguard and National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine. For more information visit:


For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859