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A team of radiologists and vascualr surgeons reported these findings in the first ever study to use MR imaging to look for open arteries in the lower legs of patients with blocked peripheral blood flow caused by arteriosclerosis. Before doctors can treat such blockages using bypass surgery, they must identify a viable artery below the blockage that can serve as a runoff vessel once the flow is restored. If during surgery, doctors are unable to find an open vessel beyond the blockage, their only option is to amputate the leg. In the study, detailed in a June 11 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that conventional arteriography -- essentially injecting patients with a dye-like agent that can be detected during X-rays -- failed to identify open vessels in a number of patients. Rodeny Owen, a fellow in the Radiology Department and lead author of the report, said the high accuracy of the technique makes it an effective means of lessening the chance that a patient with severe arteriosclerosis will need a leg amputation. Beyond the higher accuracy rate, the new technique also is considered safer than conventional methods because it is entirely non-invasive and does not involve injecting the contrasting agents, or dye materials. Owen said another advantage to the new technique is that there are no known risks. He said MR imaging has been used on humans for 10 years for different purposes without causing any health risks.

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