MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

For more information, please call 304-399-6700

When it comes to magnetic resonance imaging, there's state-of-the-art, and then there's the technology that's one step ahead of that. Cabell Huntington Hospital's new stationary MRI, which will start scanning patients today, is in that one-step-ahead category.

"This will be the most advanced machine in the area, and maybe in the state," said Rodger Blake, MD, radiologist, who worked with the hospital to outline the optimum system. "We'll have more advanced technology than Ashland or Charleston."

Top-Level Technology

Magnetic resonance imaging uses a powerful magnet to allow the body to be scanned using radio waves, producing images of structures inside the body that can be used for diagnosis and evaluation for a wide range of illnesses and injuries.

In evaluating an MRI machine, there are several variables to consider, Dr. Blake said, and the scanner chosen for Cabell Huntington Hospital incorporates the best possible options.

"First, MRI machines have field strength, which is divided into high field and low field," he said. " At 1.5 Tesla, this is high-field and the best in the area."

While a higher magnetic field strength is available in 3 Tesla machines, they are limited in the types of exams they can do.

"We picked 1.5 Tesla so that we can do all exams, for just about any patient who will fit into the machine," Dr. Blake said.

The next variable is the machine's gradient, which reflects how rapidly the magnetic field can be altered.

"This machine is echo speed, which is the best that GE makes," Dr. Blake said.

The images are all processed through a computer, which can run specialized applications for specific types of scans.

"We picked the most advanced computer, HDX, which is three times more powerful than currently available technology," he said. "It's mind-blowing computer power. Not only can we run software available now, but we have the ability to upgrade to take advantage of future advancements in MRI technology. As specialized applications come out, they can all be added to, and run on, this machine.

"In essence, we have the most powerful computer, with the magnetic field strength to do the most patients, with the best gradient," he said. "We can do just about anything that can be done with MRI."

While the magnet provides the ability to do MRI imaging, the images are generated using radio frequency, at about 60 megahertz, Dr. Blake said.

"We're basically using a low-power FM radio," he said. "The magnet puts the body into the state needed to do this."

The radio signals are received through channels in the surface coils, and the new machine uses 16 channels, which is quadruple the channels of MRI units previously available here, he said.

"Right now, eight-channel is state-of-the-art," Dr. Blake said. "Sixteen channels is the next generation. On this machine, I can run all of the 8-channel coils and as new 16-channel coils come out, they're all plug-and-play.

"With 16 channels, we get more signal out of the patient, which means we get better scans," he said. "You can use the better signal for speed or resolution, and we're gaining resolution. It's especially good for brain imaging and musculoskeletal studies, to be able to see the tiny structures in the hand or the knee, for example."

Cabell Huntington's new machine is manufactured by General Electric and includes surface coils made by USAI, which Dr. Blake said is the world's premier manufacturer.

"We pretty much have the best that money can buy," he said. "In my opinion, Cabell Huntington now also has three of the best MRI technologists in the region."

Breast MRI

Cabell Huntington Hospital has purchased specialized applications that provide advanced imaging for specific types of patients.

"We have the GE Vibrant breast MRI sequence, which is the industry standard," Dr. Blake said. "With the USAI coil, Vibrant and another application called CAD Stream, it gives the highest resolution for best accuracy, and can image both breasts simultaneously."

Previously, MRI imaging of both breasts would have required two separate scans, he said.

Breast MRI is not used for general screening for breast cancer, as mammograms are, Dr. Blake said, but for imaging in women who are known to have breast cancer, have had an abnormal mammogram that isn't clearly cancer, or have specific genetic mutations that put them at very high risk for breast cancer.

Imaging of the Brain

Another system offered by the new machine is Periodically Rotated Overlapping Parallel Lines with Enhanced Reconstruction, known as Propeller.

"Propeller reduces motion artifacts, which allows us to get higher resolution scans of elderly people with tremors, infants and children," Dr. Blake said. "It's used only in brain scans currently," he said.

In addition to reducing errors caused by patient motion, Propeller allows for a clearer scan of the area in which the brain interfaces with the fluid that surrounds it, Dr. Blake said.

"It can be applied to any scan of the head to improve image quality."

TRICKS for Vascular Problems

While its acronym may sound like a joke, Time-Resolved Imaging of Contrast Kinetics offers imaging to detect serious blood vessel problems.

"TRICKS is the most advanced MR angiography package and is the industry standard for taking pictures of blood vessels," Dr. Blake said. "Using an injection of contrast material, it allows for the best available non-invasive imaging of blood vessels."

TRICKS can be used to find narrowing of any blood vessel, but is most often applied to imaging renal (kidney) and carotid arteries. It shows all of the phases of blood flow, including arterial, capillary and venous.

"TRICKS lets an MRI non-invasively do something that previously we've only been able to do with a catheter," Dr. Blake said.

Imaging of the Liver

Lava, or Liver Acquisition with Volume Acceleration, is the hottest program in imaging cancers of the kidney and liver.

"We can cover a 25-percent larger area, and scan 25 percent faster, all with improved image quality," Dr. Blake said. "It's an exciting addition to the services offered at the Joan C. Edwards Cancer Center."

Advantages for Patients

While many of the advantages of the new scanner are most obvious to the doctors who read and use the higher-quality scans, patients will notice clear benefits, as well.

"One of the problems we've had in the past was not being able to scan the head and the entire spine with one coil," Dr. Blake said. "We had to take the patient off of the table to change coils, so in an exam with contrast, we had to move the patient twice, which can be a problem. We now have a 16-channel dedicated head-spine, 30-plus element coil, which allows us to do head-spine scans and neurovascular studies all in one exam with one coil, and the images that come from it are beautiful."

Hospital inpatients will also benefit from the convenience of a stationary unit located within the hospital.

"In the past, we've had to transport by ambulance to Tri-State MRI," Dr. Blake said. "When you're sick in the hospital, this can be an issue. For a person on a ventilator, it can be a big issue.

"Since you no longer have to leave the building, with all of the resources of the hospital, we can scan people who are sicker, too ill or unstable to leave the hospital," he said. "We can improve diagnosis and optimize treatment."

In addition, anesthesia services, which may be required for patients who are very claustrophobic, are more conveniently available at the hospital.

The new machine at Cabell Huntington Hospital complements the resources of Tri-State MRI, which offers open-bore MRI for patients too large for the conventional machine or who are claustrophobic, as well as conventional scans in an outpatient setting.

"Tri-State MRI will continue to cater to outpatient MRI needs," he said. "Along with the MRI now at Cabell Huntington Hospital, patients in the Tri State now have access to the best technology available locally."

Scheduling an MRI

MRIs may be scheduled here at Cabell Huntington Hospital by calling (304) 399-6700 or at Tri-State MRI at 1802 Sixth Avenue in Huntington by calling (304) 522-6674. For more information about MRI capabilities, please call the Radiology Department at (304) 399-6700.

  • Last updated: 05/03/2011
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