Open MRI: January 23, 2012

It’s being called a game changer. This massive magnetic resonance imaging machine, or MRI, will give doctors a clear picture of organs and structures inside the body. Its largest attribute is its 17-ton magnet.

“Magnetic field strength affects our ability to obtain quality images. The higher the field strength, generally the higher the quality of images that can be obtained. The typical open magnet would be a one-sixth of the magnetic strength of this magnet, so six times stronger magnetic field,” says Dr. John Rodriguez, medical director of outpatient imaging for Lee Memorial Health System.

This is the best of both worlds; high-resolution imaging with the open configuration.

After much research and comparison-shopping, Lee Memorial Health System found this MRI offered the fewest physical obstructions among machines with high field magnetic strength. The open view truly makes a difference when it comes to patient comfort.

“Previously, in order to get a high magnetic field strength it was a long tube, people didn’t like that because they don’t like being confined into a small place. Even people who aren’t claustrophobic would have a hard time being put into a narrow tube. So that led to them trying to achieve the same magnetic field strengths in an open design,” says Dr. Rodriguez.

The open MRI is still in the process of being installed in the Riverwalk Outpatient Radiology Center. Its arrival is much anticipated, especially among people who until now faced spending up to 45 minutes in a small tube, in order to get high-resolution images.

“The response has been amazing. We have started a waiting list of people who have heard about the technology and want to take advantage of it,” says Dr. Rodriguez.

The new high field open MRI should operational in early February.