Everything There is to Know About MRI Tools

The diseases invading humans lead to complexities and require more advanced diagnostics for identifying foreign bodies that attack our bodies. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a sophisticated and advanced diagnostic technology used in radiology to capture the body's physiological processes and anatomy. MRI tools, used in the scanning process, help detect internal bodily injuries and damages. However, such diagnostic tools and their applications can be confusing and often misunderstood by many healthcare professionals who want to buy the best machines available on the market today. Usually, the confusion arises because many healthcare professionals mistakenly consider CT scanners equivalent to MRI scanners. Though both are used for medical imaging, they are significantly different. Secondly, the availability of a wide range of MRI equipment in the market often overwhelms medical buyers to analyze and choose the best ones. This article serves as a short guide to learn about the MRI instruments, history of MRI, MRI brands (the market leaders), MRI machine standard specifications, the working mechanism, alternative devices, and use cases and complications. 

History of MRI tools

MRI is academically based on the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) science. NMR is a process in which nuclei in the magnetic field absorb and release the electromagnetic radiation. Since its initial development in the 1970s and 1980s, MRI has proven to be a significantly versatile imaging process. MRI stages a stopover to the traditional X-ray technique that is an absurd diagnostic and damages many healthy living cells. 

While researching the diagnostic qualities of magnetic resonance, Raymond Vahan Damadian, an American physician and medical practitioner, invented the first MR Scanning Machine to detect cancer in 1972 and patented in 1974. The strength of the magnetic field is measured in Tesla or Gauss Units. The stronger the magnetic field, the stronger is the strength of radio signals that can be released from the body’s atoms, and so the higher the quality of images obtained. From this, we can affirm that MRI tools that deliver strong magnetic fields are high-quality tools that yield clear images.

The Working Mechanism

MRI tools and machines work very uniquely. They use both magnetic field and radio waves to develop a detailed and clear picture of a patient's body parts and soft tissue. They also use a very powerful magnet and transmit pulsing radio waves that influence the water molecules present in the body's soft tissues. The machine has an exclusive detection coil that determines the energy generated by the water molecules as they realign or move after each "pulse" of radio waves is transmitted to the injured area. The computer receives the data and compiles it into an image. The resulting image is then manipulated by the radiologist to view the body part's cross-sections or tissues being scanned.

Alternative Instruments

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, ultrasound machines are the best alternative instruments for MRI tools. This is because of the shared benefits of the two technologies. The shared benefits of the MRI and ultrasound are the utilization of non-ionizing radiation and non-nephrotoxic contrast media. For specific indications, contrast-enhanced ultrasound machines could be the best alternatives to MRI and a valuable option for medical imaging. Other options include X-rays and CT scanners; however, all the other options, including ultrasound, do not produce the images as clear as those generated by MRI machines and tools.

MRI Tools Use Cases

MRI tools and machines, being used in one of the most innovative and advanced imaging technologies for diagnosing the body parts and injuries, enjoy a wide range of use cases including:

  • Neuro Imaging
  • Motion-free 2D/3D imaging
  • Isotropic 3D volumetric imaging
  • Increased tissue contrast sensitivity
  • Improved diffusion-weighted imaging
  • Non-contrast perfusion imaging
  • Acoustic noise reduction imaging
  • Imaging multiple contrasts with a single acquisition
  • Body Imaging
  • Motion-free imaging
  • Free-breathing sequences
  • Fat and water separation techniques for improved fat/sat
  • Improved diffusion-weighted imaging
  • Quantitative imaging techniques
  • Advances in permeability imaging
  • Breast Imaging
  • Improved speed and resolution of dynamic contrast imaging
  • Fat saturation techniques
  • Medial and lateral biopsy capability
  • Cardiac Imaging
  • Viability imaging
  • Free-breathing imaging
  • 4D-flow imaging
  • Quantitative mapping
  • Vascular Imaging
  • Non-contrast imaging
  • Accelerated table movement for run-off imaging
  • Eliminated timing bolus imaging
  • MSK Imaging
  • Improved cartilage delineation
  • Motion-free imaging
  • Isotropic 3D volumetric imaging
  • Improved metal implant imaging
  • Acoustic noise reduction imaging
  • Pediatric Imaging
  • Motion-free imaging
  • Free-breathing sequences
  • Non-contrast techniques
  • Acoustic noise reduction imaging

Complications & Concerns of MRI Tools 

The strong, static magnetic field attracts magnetic objects (from small items like keys and cell phones to big, heavy things like oxygen tanks and floor buffers). It might lead to scanner damage or patient or medical staff’s injury if those objects become projectiles. The magnetic fields that change with time produce loud knocking noises that may affect hearing if satisfactory ear protection is not used. They might also lead to peripheral muscle or nerve stimulation that feels like a twitching sensation. The radiofrequency energy used during the scan may cause the heating of the body.

Common Specifications of MRI Tools 

The major elements of an MRI tool or machine are:

  • The main magnet that polarizes the sample
  • The shim coils that rectify the inhomogeneities in the main magnetic field
  • The gradient system that localizes the MR signal and the RF system that excites the sample and identifies the resulting NMR signal.

Based on the type of techniques, there are various kinds of equipment with diverse patient positioning requirements. 

Type

Specifications (in terms of patient’s positioning)

Traditional (Closed) 

In a traditional closed MRI, the patient lies in a long tube. 

High Field Open

The high field open machine looks like a flying saucer or a hamburger bun. It offers more space to the patient than a traditional MRI. 

Open Upright 

In this tool, the patient sits in the upright seated position. These MRI tools bear the lowest magnetic strength among all kinds. 

Wide Bore 

The wide-bore MRI tools are high-field strength scanners and are faster than other kinds of machines. 

Size: A typical machine consists of a narrow cylinder-shaped container, generally having a bore diameter of 60 cm. 

Weight: A typical cylindrical superconducting 1.5T machine is 10,000 LBS (4,500 kg). The weight reaches up to 17,000 LBS (7,500 KG) for 3.0 T MRI machines. 

Strength: MRI scanners are available in different magnet field strengths, generally between 0.5T and 3.0T. 

Lifespan: The average life of a typical machine is 11.5 years. 

Market Leaders

Though a lot of brands have been manufacturing MRI scanners and machines, we have chosen the top three to discuss in the article.

  • GE MRI Tools & Machines

Though the GE systems bear higher up-front costs (the equipment purchase cost) than other manufacturers, they result in significantly lesser ongoing service costs. GE machines’ parts are readily available in the market, and the company also trains many engineers to work as a part of their maintenance service teams.  GE’s machines are highly upgraded, going to the next level. This way, they tend to cost less compared to other updated models from other manufacturers.  

Currently, there are no wide-bore alternatives available in the secondary market; however, it seems to change with time. GE’s machines and tools’ higher up-front costs often steer medical buyers with tighter budgets to consider other brands. 

  •  Philips MRI Tools & Machines

If you have a tighter budget, purchasing Philips tools and machines available on the secondary market is a good option.  These low-cost tools have low upfront costs, but their ongoing service cost may be higher.   Philips magnets generally have very strong gradients and offer some of the clearest images for their cost bracket. However, keep in mind that most of the Philips magnet designs consume cryogen. If you buy a Philips system, it is recommended to buy a service contract that covers cryogen coverage for the loss of liquid helium.

  • Siemens MRI Tools & Machines

The upfront costs of most of the Siemens machines are comparable to Philips. However, as compared to GE, the ongoing service costs of Siemens’ machines will be more than those of GE tools. The low, upfront cost factor of Siemens scanners makes it a strong value proposition for medical professionals running small and medium scale MRI facilities. 

Concerning features, Siemens scanners and machines are unique. Siemens is one of the few manufacturers that presently offer wide-bore models in the secondary market. Siemens also make TIM (Total Imaging Matrix) that takes whole-body imaging without a need for patient repositioning. Unlike Philips, Siemens develops” zero boil-off” magnet designs that are highly incredibly efficient and consume only a slight amount of cryogen.

Conclusion

The best way to know if you have selected the right MRI tool for your needs is to answer some of the most critical questions, including how the MRI tool will improve your diagnostic capabilities? Will it help to attain patient satisfaction goals? And how do you expect to retain the tool?

Answering the questions while simultaneously understanding the warranty, support, service, and total cost of MRI tool ownership factors would be the best way to evaluate and finalize your option.