Owensboro Health is installing a new open-sided MRI that cuts in half the time patients spend on the table and can accept those who weigh up to 660 pounds.
The nearly $1.3 million Hitachi Oasis at OH Outpatient Imaging — The Springs is the only open-sided MRI in a 70-mile radius, said Dr. Carl Watkins, diagnostic radiologist. That cost does not include construction expenses to retrofit the clinical space, such as a new concrete pad and shielding in the floor, ceiling and walls to limit magnetic interference.
Watkins said the new machine should be a godsend for patients who need procedures but won’t schedule them because they suffer from claustrophobia, or a fear of small spaces. Studies show that up to 15% of patients fear MRIs for that reason and body size.
A conventional MRI machine is an enclosed tubelike system with an opening about 2 feet wide.
With an open-sided unit, “you can see from all around,” said Karen Dennis, OH director of outpatient imaging. “And it is quieter.”
The new unit comes with a 32-inch-wide table that lowers for easy access.
An open-sided MRI allows a parent to stand beside a child and hold his hand while images are taken.
“Sometimes, that’s all it takes to have a child hold still while we get the study,” Watkins said.
In the past, the procedure lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. Once the new model is installed, the time on the table will be slashed to 30 to 40 minutes.
Cutting the time will prove advantageous for children, who struggle to hold still for long periods of time, and for people who suffer from pain due to their medical conditions, Watkins said.
Images from older open-sided units lacked sufficient “field strength,” or power, to produce the highest quality images.
“… Oasis is the highest field strength, whole body vertical field magnet,” Hitachi reports.
The new unit should produce images on par with enclosed MRI systems, Watkins said, but some doctors may still prefer images from a traditional, enclosed machine.
The new unit contains a 32,000-pound magnet. On Friday, two cranes will be placed in The Springs employee parking lot in preparation of moving the magnet on Saturday, when crews will maneuver it through a window on the imaging center’s northeast side.
Dennis hopes the new unit will be ready for patients in late November. On Wednesday, she said patients already have scheduled appointments in anticipation.
Although the new machine is quieter, music will be available, along with pads for comfort and washcloths to cover eyes.
The Hitachi Oasis is replacing OH’s old open-sided MRI system, which was in service about 19 years.
The Springs has OH’s only open-sided MRI.
“It’s a great addition to the fleet of (MRI systems) we already have,” Dennis said.