Mayo Clinic's approach


Mayo Clinic doctors and scientists invented MRE technology. Each year, Mayo specialists perform thousands of MRE exams. MRE is available at all three Mayo Clinic campuses.

Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE)

Vivien Williams: Working in the yard is one way Vicky Cummings stays fit. She's always taken good care of her health. So when Vicky was diagnosed with hepatitis C, she was stunned.

Vicky Cummings: I was in shock.

Vivien Williams: It turns out she's likely had the virus since the day she was born. She says her mom got it from a blood transfusion during a medical procedure back in the 1960s, and unknowingly passed it onto her daughter during delivery.

Vicky Cummings: Like I said, I'm asymptomatic.

Vivien Williams: But to make sure her liver's not becoming stiff from fibrosis, which can lead to irreversible cirrhosis, Vicky's had a liver biopsy.

Vicky Cummings: Where they go in with a needle in between your ribs.

Vivien Williams: Uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Vicky Cummings: [INAUDIBLE] a lot on one of those days.

Vivien Williams: But Vicky has also had, and much prefers, a new test called magnetic resonance elastography, or MRE.

Richard Ehman, M.D., Diagnostic Radiology: MR elastography is a technique for imaging the mechanical properties of tissue.

Vivien Williams: Dr. Richard Ehman invented the technology. It uses MRI and low frequency mechanical vibrations and allows doctors to see the liver in a new way. It not only shows the structure of the liver, but it also shows the stiffness of the liver tissue. Other imaging techniques can't do that.

Richard Ehman, M.D.: The vibrations that we apply are not uncomfortable, and the risks associated with the exam would be those that would be associated with a MRI exam, which, in general, is a very safe procedure.

Vivien Williams: Here's how it works. A piece of equipment that looks like a little drum is placed on the patient's abdomen. The vibrations move through stiff tissue and supple tissue at different rates. A computer analyzes the differences and shows what's healthy, soft tissue and what's not. What the doctor sees is a color-coded image called an elastogram.

Richard Ehman, M.D.: The red would correspond to cirrhosis.

Vivien Williams: MRE is non-invasive, and it gives a picture of the entire liver, not just a sampling of one area, as is the case with biopsies.

Richard Ehman, M.D.: With a needle biopsy, we're taking a tiny, little thread of liver tissue and using that to represent the status of the whole liver. And you can see how, if we sample one area that was basically normal, it might not detect disease in other parts of the liver.

Vivien Williams: Being able to determine the status of the liver more comfortably and accurately will likely translate to more effective treatments for patients like Vicky. Her liver is still healthy, and she's grateful that MRE technology will help give doctors a more effective way to monitor her health. For Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Vivien Williams.

Advanced technology

MRE can be used to accurately diagnose liver fibrosis. For many patients, MRE is a more comfortable, safer and less expensive noninvasive alternative to liver biopsy.

Mayo Clinic imaging researchers are working with doctors from many specialties to improve this new technique and explore applications in other diseases, including Alzheimer's, heart failure and breast cancer.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, ranks No. 1 for digestive disorders in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are ranked among the Best Hospitals for digestive disorders by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester is ranked the No. 1 hospital in Minnesota, and the five-state region of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2023–2024 "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

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Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies of tests and procedures to help prevent, detect, treat or manage conditions.

May 29, 2024
  1. Yin M, et al. MR Elastography: Practical questions, from the AJR special series on imaging of fibrosis. American Journal of Roentgenology. 2024; doi:10.2214/AJR.23.29437.
  2. Ehman RL. Magnetic resonance elastography: From invention to standard of care. Abdominal Radiology. 2022; doi:10.1007/s00261-022-03597-z.
  3. Murphy MC, et al. MR elastography of the brain and its application in neurological diseases. Neuroimage. 2019; doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.10.008.
  4. Arani A, et al. Cardiac MR elastography for quantitative assessment of elevated myocardial stiffness in cardiac amyloidosis. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 2017; doi:10.1002/jmri.25678.
  5. Elastography. Accessed April 3, 2024.

Magnetic resonance elastography