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August 15, 2011

Upgrade or Replace? Hospitals Consider Their MRI Infrastructures

Like any appliance, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner needs care and attention to keep it running strong. And in these days of rising healthcare costs, retooling costs a whole lot less than replacing.

That’s why the UK National Health Service (NHS) is endorsing Siemens Healthcare’s Total Imaging Matrix, or Tim, upgrades to extend the life of existing MRI infrastructure, according to a story at

Upgrading MRIs can bring improved visibility into the human body and greater accessibility and comfort, according to a story at Radiology Today.

According to CEO Focus, more hospital emergency departments are ordering MRIs for patients these days. The blog reports that “in 2007, 15 percent of imaging in emergency departments was performed with CT or MRI for injury-related conditions, up from just 6 percent in 1998, according to Frederick Kofi Korley, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues.” writers report that MRIs benefit from Tim upgrades because they include “improved image quality to boost clinical effectiveness, speeded-up scan times to help with seeing more patients during the working day, and raised staff morale from working with up-to-date technology.” Additionally, MRI upgrades usually disrupt imaging departments much less than installing new ones.

“Our MRI scanner was approaching eight-years-old so we had to make a decision to replace or lengthen its life – we opted for a Tim upgrade to work with what was already in place,” Debbie King, modality lead radiographer in MRI at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, part of the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, told writers. “We have been really pleased with the benefits, gaining faster scan times, and better signal-to-noise ratio for improved image quality. As a result, we have been able to introduce a new cardiac imaging service at the hospital to avoid the need for patients to be referred elsewhere.”

Claire Brettle, superintendent radiographer for computed tomography and MRI at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, agreed. “The upgrade was a much more cost-effective option than buying a new MRI scanner to increase throughput and deliver better image quality,” she said in the story. “The results have been great – we chose to enhance image quality over faster scans and it has made everything we do much better.”

“When MRI systems are nearing their replacement age, technical upgrades offer a quick and alternative route to modernizing capital equipment compared to an entirely new system-install. The cost savings are also a big plus for NHS Trusts that want to extend MRI life spans to gain better image quality and speed,” added Jane Kilkenny, MRI product manager at Siemens Healthcare, in the story.

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Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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