Double Vision

New MRI technology benefits physicians and patients with twice the strength

A condition such as spinal disc herniation may become twice as troubling to a patient who also suffers from claustrophobia if their doctor orders an MRI. Along with the pain of the herniated disc, the patient also must face a screening test in an enclosed space. But a new MRI technology can now benefit both that patient and the physician. A 3.0T MRI magnet not only has a wider diameter for its opening but also by provides higher quality images to radiologists as they make or confirm a diagnosis.

“The new 3.0T magnet has twice the strength and twice the power of the traditional magnet,” says radiologist Robert K. Myers, MD. “From a clinical standpoint, this means physicians receive higher resolution and better quality images.”
 
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. The technology uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to create images of organs and other structures in the body, including the brain, spine, chest, blood vessels, bones and joints, and more. The strength of the magnetic field is measured in units of Tesla (T), and the standard strength for an MRI magnet is 1.5T.
 
The new 3.0T machine provides more than just double the strength, however.
 
“Before, the strength of the magnet limited how large the machine’s internal diameter could be,” Myers says. “You needed to be close to the patient to get a better quality study. With 3.0T strength, the opening is wider.”
 
The new 3.0T magnet was also designed to reduce the loud pinging noise that is heard during its operation. The noise—sometimes matching the decibel level of a jackhammer—can make it harder for the MRI technologist and the patient to communicate, and can raise patient anxiety.
 
“The 3.0T magnet is not silent, but it is significantly quieter,” Myers says.
 
The greater detail and increased resolution from the 3.0T magnet has had clear benefits for Dr. Myers in his work as both an interventional and general radiologist. The magnet also has a lower risk of distorted images, lessening the need for repeat scans.
 
“With such higher image quality, it is easier to make a diagnosis,” Myers says. “Multiple sclerosis lesions are more conspicuous. Other benefits of the advanced images are improved sensitivity for liver cancer, and better evaluation of prostate cancer.”

The 3.0T MRI is available at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and is currently the only one in the region.
 
Dr. Myers notes that for some routine scans, the 1.5T machines provide the quality images needed for an accurate diagnosis. But for patients with severe claustrophobia or obesity, the 3.0T magnet’s capabilities allow for a more pleasant patient experience. Also, for patients who need their blood vessels scanned but are allergic to the contrast dye, the increased spatial resolution of the 3.0T can often provide excellent vascular imaging without contrast.
 
“You can also go in feet first, which patients couldn’t do before,” Myers adds with a smile. Small changes like this can make a big difference for patients with anxiety. Perhaps more importantly, patients can be reassured that their physician is receiving images from the most advanced MRI technology in the field today.