Computed tomography (CT) scans are used to screen for emphysema, a progressive lung disease that enlarges the lung's air sacs, impairing oxygen delivery. In a study of eight nonsmokers and 11 smokers who did not have emphysema symptoms, such as shortness of breath and chronic cough, the patients inhaled "hyperpolarized" helium , a gas used with a new MRI technique that makes the lung sacs easier to view. The new technique detected signs of emphysema in smokers who were otherwise healthy, while the CT scans did not.

For more information, contact the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and see "Information for Patients."

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