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Missouri Health System Improves Respiratory Disease Treatment With New Lung Scan

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   December 01, 2023

MU Health Care is one of only two health systems in the country to use the Xenon MRI, which could improve diagnosis and treatment for millions of people living with a variety of lung issues.

A new method for scanning lungs could improve diagnosis and care management for patients with a wide range of respiratory disorders.

Clinicians at University of Missouri Health Care are using xenon gas as a contrast agent in MRI lung scans. The process, called a Xenon MRI, gives care providers a better view of a patient’s lungs in action, and could improve treatments for patients living with cystic fibrosis, COPD, asthma, farmer’s lung, and other diseases.

“Advancing Xenon MRI from the research realm into clinical application represents a tremendous breakthrough for evaluating lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis, asthma or COPD,” Talissa Altes, MD, chair of radiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, told radio station KRMS in a recent interview. “Rather than imaging structures and tissue, we’re imaging function itself. In this case, producing a highly detailed image of how the lungs are doing their job.” 

MU Health is one of only two health systems in the country using the inhaled contrast agent, called XENOVIEW. The health system launched a research program in 2018, and in 2022 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use with patients.

Patients inhale the gas contract agent, and an MRI is performed during a short breath hold, usually taking 10 to 20 seconds. The images produced by the scan are used by pulmonologists, surgeons and other respiratory specialists to get a better look at lung ventilation.

“Traditionally patients are diagnosed based on how they present compared to other patients with similar symptoms,” Robert Thomen, PhD, an associate professor of radiology and bioengineering at the UM School of Medicine, said in the radio interview. “Because we can now see the function of the lungs as air is inhaled, we have the opportunity to bring more precision to the diagnosis of respiratory disorders.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Traditional lung scans for people living with cystic fibrosis, COPD, and other issues often aren’t clear enough to help clinicians with care management.

The University of Missouri Health Care is using Xenon gas as a contrast agent with an MRI to give providers a much more detailed view of the lungs in action.

The process gives clinicians a better opportunity to diagnose lung diseases and map out more effective care plans for millions of patients.

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