Introducing Open MRI
Diagnostic tools are an important part of efficient medicine because many of them help physicians examine the inside of the body from the outside. Each kind of diagnostic tool or test is designed to explore something specific. Bones, for example, show up nicely on an X-ray. However, organs and soft tissue do not. That’s where another kind of tool, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), comes into play.
MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the inside of the body. The good news is that it is a relatively quick, non-invasive test. It’s not painful and it is very accurate. The bad news is that some patients simply cannot adapt to the long, somewhat narrow tube that traditional MRI machines employ. The dimensions are pretty tight, which is a challenge for larger patients or those with claustrophobic tendencies. Although sedation can help with some of those challenges, it presents complications of its own.
Now North Ottawa Community Health System has a fantastic new option to make MRI technology more widely accessible. We call it “open concept MRI.”
How is open concept MRI different? It still provides the same high-quality images for physicians to evaluate. However, the procedure can be substantially less stressful for patients in two important ways. First, the tube itself has a larger diameter, which makes it less confining and claustrophobic. Second, the tube is also shorter. So instead of encasing the patient from head to toe, it covers a much smaller part of the body. Just imagine the difference between sliding into a donut instead of a straw, and you’ll get the idea!
“We are thrilled to have this high-quality machine available for our patients,” says Dan Holwerda, Chief Operations Officer at NOCHS. “From a patient perspective, it solves many of the challenges posed by the traditional MRI machine. For physicians, we can now offer a very powerful diagnostic tool that is designed to focus on specific parts of the body (knee, ankle, etc.) as needed. We can also serve more of their patients, especially those for whom a small tube simply would not work.”
NOCHS’ MRI technology is the exact same equipment you would find at U of M, Cleveland Clinic, or Beaumont. It’s top of the line. We get phenomenal images, of identical quality to what you would find at any of these well-known institutions. Our MRI machine is a mobile unit, and therefore is available in Grand Haven four days per week, and it’s about 80 percent scheduled.”
The images, however, are only half of the equation. The radiologist who reads the image is equally important, and NOCHS has three of the absolute best. All three have earned advanced degrees in their fields, from institutions such as Yale, Massachusetts General (Boston) and Rush University Medical Center (Chicago).
“Reading an MRI is not exactly like reading a book,” explains Dr. Schmidt, one of the NOCH radiologists. “Many images are not definitive. You need context, background, and a lot of experience to interpret what you see. Our radiology team is highly trained, and we work very closely with physicians to help them make decisions about treatment,” says Dr. Schmidt.
If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, please contact NOCHS Medical Imaging at (616) 844-4800. Our Medical Imaging department is staffed 24/7 for routine as well as emergency care.
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