SGCMH installs new MRI system

10/12/2020

The next generation of advanced medical imaging equipment will arrive soon at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital. A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit from Philips will be in full operation by year’s end and is a win-win for clinicians and patients.

“Technology is evolving all the time,” said Tammy Meyer, SGCMH Director of Diagnostic Imaging. “Our current MRI unit is 15 years old, so you can imagine how technology has changed in that amount of time. But even more importantly, our patients will love the new unit, and improving the patient experience is important to us.”

According to Meyer, the new MRI scanner has a larger opening which can better accommodate larger and heavier patients (up to 550 pounds) while providing a less-confining space for the patient during the exam. The enhanced computer processing software used by the new scanner is Philips’s latest, producing exceptional image quality that better details a patient’s anatomy for doctors to evaluate.
Patients will certainly appreciate the shorter scan times.

“Normal scan time is about one hour for one body part,” Meyer said. “We will reduce that to a 30-minute scan time. That will make our patients very happy.”

MRI is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses magnetic fields and radio frequencies to generate detailed anatomical and functional images. MRI scans have an advantage over other forms of scanning because they can image different types of organ tissue without ionizing radiation. In the most recent fiscal year, SGCMH completed 1085 MRI procedures.

Before the new unit can be put into operation, a good deal of prep work has to be done.

So here’s a riddle. The new unit, and the old one too, for that matter, will not fit through the door of the MRI suite. How will the MRI get in the room?

“The outside wall of the suite is called the breakthrough wall,” explained Meyer. “The wall will be opened up where the existing window is; the old magnet will be taken out; the new magnet will be put in; and the brick wall will be closed up and the window reinstalled.”

While all of this fancy footwork is taking place, a mobile MRI unit will be on campus to provide scans to patients so the services will not have to stop during the interim. Meyer said the technologists that work at the hospital and know their patients will be the technologists that work in the mobile van as well.

The MRI system is considered a closed MRI system, but that’s not to be taken literally.

“It’s not really closed in the sense that there are no openings,” Meyer said. “There’s a large opening at both ends. Since we have the luxury of having a window in our suite, it provides natural light in the room, so you never feel like you’re in a dark, closed-in room. We’re very proud of the room that we have and the environment is very inviting. To make patients more comfortable, they can listen to their favorite music and with our new system, they’ll also be able to view photos. It provides more relaxation to our patients and helps to calm their nerves while they have their procedures.”

If you’re wondering how the MRI unit works, here’s the condensed explanation. MRI scanners use very strong magnetic fields (roughly a thousand times the strength of a typical fridge magnet), and radio waves, which interact with protons in tissues to create a signal that is then processed to form images of the body.

Metal materials are extremely dangerous in the MRI exam room. The magnet will attract these materials whether they are as small as a bobby pin or as large as a patient bed. The force by which the object is drawn into the magnetic bore is unstoppable and incredibly dangerous for any person or object between the two.

“This is the machine that we protect the most,” said Meyer. “Because it could be the most dangerous to anyone going into the suite with any type of metal or foreign body on. We have a lot of safety precautions put in place for patients and visitors, including a bright yellow belt across the door to the suite.”

Meyer added that the magnet is always on and is never taken down unless there is a threat of a major work event or disaster.

“We’re excited to bring this state-of-the-art technology to our patients, who will benefit significantly from its enhanced imaging capabilities and patient-friendly features,” said Meyer. “We also look forward to continuing to push the envelope in terms of providing patients with the best medical and technological advances in healthcare today.”

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