New MRI Unit: World-Class Scans Without the Trip
Beginning in the summer of 2011, Vineyarders needn’t compromise the quality of their scan, or incur added costs when they choose to have their MRI without leaving the Island.
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has taken a big step forward with the installation of a new MRI machine in the radiology suite of the new Hospital building. The new MRI, a General Electric MR450W, “is a generational change from the magnet we’ve been using,” says Peggy Ekholm, the Hospital’s director of diagnostic imaging. “This is the latest generation of technology and is as good as the equipment you’ll find at Boston’s best hospitals.”
“Magnet” is a common nickname for the MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging. At the heart of the GE machine is its 1.5-Tesla electromagnet, super-cooled in a bath of liquid helium and 300 times stronger than a refrigerator magnet.
MRI scans are an essential tool in modern medicine, allowing doctors to look at tissues inside the body without exploratory surgery. “It’s truly amazing what you actually can see with this new equipment,” Ms. Ekholm says. “It’s as if you’re looking at real anatomy.”
The Hospital first began offering MRI scans in 2001, when a trailer carrying the magnet was hauled to the Island every other weekend. From the beginning, Ms. Ekholm explains, “We were looking to bring new radiology services to the Island so patients would not have to travel off for them.”
For the past few years, the Hospital’s MRI trailer has been parked along a hallway in the 1972 wing. Now the new magnet has a permanent place in the new radiology department.
The features patients will notice most about the new MRI are threefold – it’s faster, it’s less noisy, and it’s much roomier for the patient. “For most exams,” says Ms. Ekholm, “the geometry of the way they’ve designed the magnet is such that you’ll feel like there’s more space around you. And this is accomplished with resolution that’s actually better in the images the MRI makes.”
The new GE magnet has a larger field of view, which means it can complete many scans in less time than its predecessors. The MR450W also features noise-reduction systems that further improve the patient’s experience during scanning. The MRI machine comes with an array of special coils for specific scans – elbow coils, shoulder coils, knee coils, wrist coils, breast coils. During its installation, operators of the MRI loaded it with the same set of scanning protocols used by Massachusetts General Hospital, whose MRI department has been reading every scan taken on the Vineyard for the past 10 years.
The experts at Mass General work closely with physicians at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital before a scan is taken, advising on what protocols will be most useful. After an MRI, gigabytes of data from the scans are streamed to Mass General where they are analyzed by doctors who specialize in reading scans from particular parts of the body. Thus, a brain scan goes to the neurological experts and an ankle sprain goes to the orthopedists.
One new service MV Hospital will be able to offer with this new equipment, says Ms. Ekholm, is breast MRI: “This adds a good, non-invasive option for a patient when the tools we already have don’t give us a completely satisfactory answer.”
The most important thing for Vineyarders to know, Ms. Ekholm says, is that they won’t be compromising on the quality of their MRI scan, or incurring added cost, when they have it close to home. “We’ve got the very best equipment here. This new service is comparable in quality and in price to anything available in the biggest Boston hospital. With this new service, nobody should have to go through a day of off-Island travel for an MRI.”
- Read more about MVH Diagnostic Imaging
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