New MRI Unit: World-Class Scans Without the Trip

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 took a big step forward in 2011 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 that was in use. 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.

The Hospital first began offering MRI scans in 2001, when a trailer carrying the magnet was hauled to the Island every other weekend.

Until the new building opened  in 2010, the MRI trailer had been parked along a hallway in the hospital annex. Now the magnet has a permanent place in the imaging 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 the geometry of the design 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 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.

MVH is able to offer with breast MRI with this equipment. This is 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 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. This is the very best equipment and is comparable in quality and in price to anything available in the biggest Boston hospital. Nobody should have to go through a day of off-Island travel for an MRI.”

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