HOUSTON (June 1, 2011) — Getting high-quality internal images of knees, ankles, elbows and wrists no longer means using the conventional whole-body magnetic resonance image (MRI) scanner. It can be done in a relaxed sitting position thanks to a new scanner, the first high-powered machine of its kind in Houston, in use at the Harris County Hospital District’s Ben Taub General Hospital.
The MSK Extreme 1.5 Tesla by GE Healthcare offers patients an alternative to the confining magnetic tunnel of a conventional whole-body MRI scanner.
In May, staff began using the new device at Ben Taub General Hospital. Patients sit in an adjustable chair and only insert the leg or arm to be scanned. The rest of the body is left out of the machine. A patient can listen to music and relax during the procedure.
“It’s a more open experience and there’s less anxiety for patients who are afraid of closed-in spaces,” says Cynthia Brewer, RTR, MRI, manager, MRI Division, Harris County Hospital District. “In standard MRIs, we sometimes have to sedate patients because many are claustrophobic and uncomfortable with the confined quarters.”
The new MRI offers fast scan times and occupies a smaller space. Patients with extreme cases of claustrophobia can sit comfortably for their MRI scan without compromising the image quality.
“Having a patient relaxed and comfortable makes for good scans,” Brewer says.
The hospital district averages about 1,200 MRI scans a month at both its hospitals — Ben Taub General Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital. A third of them are for orthopedic scans on knees, ankles, elbows and wrists.
For Joseph Wilson, RTR, technologist, MRI Division, Harris County Hospital District, the new scanner means staff can offer patients an even better patient experience.
“Our patients will feel good about the experience and not be so anxious,” he says. “That will make them happy, and that makes me happy.”