The demand for Open MRI systems and services over the conventional ‘Closed MRI’ systems by patients and physicians has been increasing dramatically over the past few years. A few of the typical reasons why a physician would refer someone to an ‘Open’ MRI scanner over a ‘Closed’ MRI scanner are related to claustrophobia, size and weight of the patient or issues related to patient comfort. As of late, many patients have come to realize that they often have the ‘last word’ when it comes to what type of MR system they have their examination completed on. OPEN vs. CLOSED. The battle between physician and patient continues.
What is the controversy? Why do referring physicians care what type of MRI systems their patients have MRIs completed on? Aren’t all MRI scanners created equal? In short the answer is no. In MRI one of the basic principles of being able to obtain an image with high quality and resolution has to do with the MR systems inherent field strength. The higher the field strength, the higher the signal and resolution can be. This translates into better image quality, and often a higher accuracy for exam interpretation.
For the past few years all Open MRI systems have been low field strength. The typical units of measure have been on the order of about 0.2 Tesla. Most of the higher field strength Closed MRI systems hover around 1.0 to 1.5 Tesla. To put this into perspective, if you increase your field strength from a 1.5 Tesla system to a 3.0 Tesla system, you have multiplied your signal times 4. With this analogy, it is easy to see how far away the 0.2 Tesla systems are from the High field systems of today.
NJMRI has been watching these trends over the years and has weighed the issues of Low field Open technology with the more respected High Field Closed MR technology. Open MRI has a place in Radiology, but the trade offs are difficult for medical and administrative officials to swallow. Until NOW. NJMRI has purchased one of the first editions of the NEW OPEN HIGH FIELD MR SYSTEMS. That’s right, ‘OPEN HIGH FIELD’. GE Medical systems has embarked on creating an MRI system that combines comfort and speed with high field performance.