Magnetic Appeal

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders News , June 19, 2007

In this month's technology section in our print edition, you can read about how MRI technology can be used during surgery. For patients with tumors, this technology can be a godsend, enabling surgeons to get a real-time picture during a difficult procedure.

But using magnetic resonance during surgery poses all sorts of challenges, including surgical instrumentation, patient safety and equipment installation. After interviewing experts at Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and Cook Children's Health Care System, I was inspired. What a tribute to human ingenuity.

It left me wondering: How else can MRI advance the cause of medicine?After reading a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, I got the unexpected answer. Turns out one of the most widely read articles on the British Medical Journal's Web site is an eight-year-old study that describes how MRI technology can capture images of, shall we say, the moving parts involved during moments of male and female togetherness.

Yes, it's true. The esteemed publication printed an article examining one of the great mysteries of human existence: "To find out whether taking images of the male and female genitals during coitus is feasible and to find out whether former and current ideas about the anatomy during sexual intercourse and during female sexual arousal are based on assumptions or on facts."

After overcoming what Tribune, writer Julie Deardoff described as "ethical, technical and social problems," the team of Netherlands researchers proved that, yes, it is possible, and that furthermore, the knowledge "contributes to our understanding of anatomy."

Now I suppose we should stand in awe of such research. I don't know about you, but having undergone an MRI, I would not describe it as a romance-inducing experience. Just the opposite, in fact--especially when that whirring noise starts up and you hear a disembodied voice coming across the loudspeaker urging you to be calm. I wonder what they said to the subjects in the BMJ experiment?

In any case, it really puts in perspective those Europeans who claim Americans are repressed about sex. They say we're the only people on earth who need instruction manuals. But now we can say at least we figured it out without an MRI.

Gary Baldwin is technology editor of HealthLeaders magazine. He can be reached at

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