Comparing and Reviewing Popular MRI Systems

You've decided that an MRI system will greatly benefit your diagnostic imaging capabilities and have therefore made the decision to invest in an MRI system. However, once you begin shopping for a new MRI system, you'll find there are countless options to consider, and  each manufacturer has numerous types of systems available, all with different features. To determine what MRI system will benefit your hospital the most, you'll have to know what to look for and what's available.

What Do Hospitals Look For When Purchasing an MRI System?

Knowing what your needs are will help narrow your search, making it easier to find the MRI system that will suit your practice best. The following are some of the factors that you will want to consider before looking for a new MRI system:

  • Initial costs - When investing in an MRI, the initial costs are going to vary greatly depending on the power of the MRI (3T MRIs are much more expensive than 1.5T MRIs, for example) as well as whether you buy a new model or a refurbished model. Additionally, you will need to pay for MRI suite buildout, which can be quite expensive.
  • Ongoing costs -  Be sure you have enough room in your budget to pay for the ongoing costs of running and maintaining an MRI. An MRI uses up a lot of energy and will need to be constantly on. Depending on the model you purchase, you may need to refill its liquid helium supply on a regular basis. On top of all of that, you'll have to budget for regular maintenance and repair costs.
  • Patient comfort - There are several types of configurations when it comes to MRI systems. 3T MRIs are going to be closed machines, which means that the patient will be almost entirely surrounded by the magnet. This can be a bit disconcerting, especially if the patient suffers from anxiety or claustrophobia. There are 1.5T open models that only partially cover the patient when they enter it. For a completely open MRI, the upright MRI machine allows patients to sit or stand.
  • Diagnostic needs - Although a 3T MRI system is faster and provides higher quality imaging capabilities, it may have more bells and whistles than you need. For example, if you don't have a lot of patients in need of MRI scans, then speed isn't necessarily a deciding factor. Additionally, if you rarely need to diagnose or treat spinal, brain, or musculoskeletal conditions, then a 1.5 MRI may suffice.

GE 1.5T and  3.0T MRI

GE has a reputation for being a quality manufacturer across the board, and this is no different when it comes to its healthcare product division. In fact, they manufacture a variety of different MRI systems, both in 1.5T and 3T varieties. Considering the number of options available, it shouldn't be difficult to find what you need if you decide to go with GE. The following is a brief look at the different types of 1.5T and 3T MRI systems they build.

GE 1.5T

GE produces several different model 1.5 MRI systems. The following are some of the features that differentiate them from one another:

  • Signa Explorer - The Signa Explorer boasts a number of features worth mentioning, including the SilentSuite, which helps improve patient comfort by reducing the scanner’s noise, as well as its 3D motion correction feature, which helps improve image quality by reducing motion artifacts. The system is also user-friendly with features like READY Brain, which is an automated brain exam, and eDWI, which allows for a simplified whole body diffusion imaging process that takes as little as seven minutes. The Signa Explorer also uses zero-helium boil-off technology, making it more cost-effective.
  • Signa Creator - The Signa Creator focuses on providing top-notch imaging quality with a wide range of applications designed for ease of use. Its OpTix Optical RF technology provides excellent analog to digital signal conversion and has the ability to provide upwards of a 27 percent gain in SNR compared to conventional analog signal receivers. Its applications include automated motion correction, multi-planar body imaging, automated time-resolved imaging, and MSK performance with cartilage mapping. Additionally, automatic coil selection improves the workflow, while the express suite coil design will provide high-quality coverage and signal penetration. The Signa Creator also uses Cube, a volumetric imaging acquisition feature.
  • Signa Artist - Signa Artist has a wider bore than the typical closed MRI system. Its bore is 70cm instead of 60cm, making it more comfortable for patients to lie in. The system makes use of the SIGNA Works platform, which comes pre-loaded with SIGNA Architect and other innovative applications that will help you streamline your workflow. This MRI scanner’s DDI (Direct Digital Interface) uses an independent analog-to-digital converter, which eliminates unnecessary noise enhancement. The system is also equipped with a 16-channel shoulder and T/R knee coils that will allow you to get closer to the patient for improved imaging outcomes.
  • Signa Voyager - The Signa Voyager includes many features to help improve patient comfort, including a wide bore, breathe-free technology, and motion-free technology. It also has one of the smallest footprints in the industry among 1.5T machines due in part to its incredibly low power consumption. The system was designed to maximize productivity and workflow. For example, it will allow you to generate multiple image contrasts in a single MRI scan as well as PD contrasts of the brain within a single acquisition, something few other MRI machines are capable of. The Voyager uses a MAGiC processing feature that even allows you to alter the contrast of an image following the completion of the scan--the patient doesn't even have to be in the room.
  • Discovery MR450W - The Discovery MR450W is considered a real workhorse of a system. In addition to its wide bore, it also includes a 50cm usable FOV that allows you to accommodate larger patients. The image quality of the system is particularly high as a result of the OpTix digital RF system, the high fidelity gradients, and acoustic reduction technology. There is also a Discovery MR450W GEM model available, which is a similar system that comes with the GEM (Geometry Embracing Method) suite.

GE 3.0T

GE's 3T MRI systems produce higher powered magnetic fields than their 1.5T systems allowing for more detailed imaging capabilities. This, of course, makes these systems more expensive. The following are the 3T MRI models currently available from GE:

  • Signa Premier - The Signa Premier is a wide bore 3T MRI machine that uses SuperG gradient coil technology, resulting in the improvement of acquisition speeds through the use of force-balanced, all-hollow conductors that have independent cooling circuits. This technology allows for high-resolution body, cardiac, and musculoskeletal imaging even with the wider bore. The Signa Premier also uses HyperBand, HyperCube, and HyperSense technology, all of which provide the system with incredible speed. However, it's arguably the AIR technology that sets the Signa Premier apart from other models. AIR technology refers to the lightweight coil design that conforms to the body of the patient. Not only is it flexible and easy to position, it has a high-density channel count, which results in better image quality.
  • Signa Architect - The wide bore Signa Architect model is built using the SIGNA Works platform containing imaging solutions that cover everything from motion correction capabilities, 2D and 3D volumetric data, and more. The reFINE and deFINE features also provide more control over the quality of your images. Patient comfort is addressed in a number of ways as well, including with the eXpress dockable table with IntelliTouch positioning, which uses a memory foam surface and offers both feet-first and head-first imaging options. The system comes with the option of adding a 48 Channel Head Coil, which boasts a fit-adaptable design, which not only fits 99.99 percent of the population but also preserves the highest SNR and supports HyperWorks technologies.
  • Signa Pioneer - The wide bore Signa Pioneer uses MAGiC technology to provide high-quality imaging as well as Turbo LAVA/LAVA Flex, a feature that enables shorter breath-holds and faster scans. In fact, the ARC-based acceleration technique it employs helps to speed up LAVA and LAVA Flex sequences by as much as 50 percent without affecting the quality of the images. The system also uses 3D PROMO, which provides 3D prospective motion correction in real time. The system is a space-saver as well since it is 25 percent smaller than most 3T MRI machines. Added to that, it uses roughly 50 percent less power than most conventional 3T MRIs due to its ultra-high efficiency gradient technology.
  • Discovery 750W - The wide bore Discovery 750W uses several innovative new technologies, including Optical RF, a 50cm FOV, MultiDrive RF Transmit, MAGiC processing, and high-performance gradients. The system is also very user-friendly and intuitive, allowing for easy setup and a fast workflow. Features such as the high-resolution in-room operator control, sleek dual-sided controls, and IntelliTouch Patient Positioning all contribute to this. The system also comes with the GEM Suite, which combines innovative software technology and high-density RF surface coils to improve patient comfort, image quality, and more.
  • Discovery 750 - The Discovery MRI also comes in a normal-sized bore option called the Discovery 750. It offers many of the same benefits as the Discovery 750W with the exception of the smaller bore size and the GEM Suite. However, it still provides excellent image quality, fast and accurate scans, great signal clarity, fewer operating steps, faster reconstructions, and quick (as well as automated) patient setups that take less than 30 seconds.

Philips Ingenia 1.5T and 3.0T MRI

Philips is another highly regarded MRI manufacturer that produces both 1.5T and 3T MRI systems. Although they do not offer nearly as many models as GE, their models are very customizable, allowing you to choose from a very wide selection of clinical suites and applications as well as coils to help meet your specific diagnostic imaging needs.

Ingenia 1.5T

The following are the different Philips Ingenia 1.5T MRI models available:

  • Ingenia 1.5T - The Ingenia 1.5T is a wide bore MRI system with zero-boil off technology. It makes use of Premium IQ4 for digital clarity and speed. The system uses iPatient technology, which provides patient-adaptive imaging to improve throughput by upwards of 30 percent. The dStream digital broadband architecture allows for high-quality images and speed, while its channel-independent RF technology offers upwards of 40 percent more SNR¹  and makes upgrades easy. The Ingenia 1.5T also addresses motion challenges with the MultiVane XD feature to ensure the images retain a high quality in the presence of motion. Finally, the system offers an immersive video/audio distraction to patients. Instructions can even be provided via the headphones.
  • Ingenia 1.5T S - The Ingenia 1.5T S offers all the same features of the Ingenia 1.5T and is equally dedicated to high-quality first-time-right imaging and creating a comfortable patient experience. The main difference is its Xtend magnet system. The Xtend magnet system is designed to provide the largest homogeneous field-of-view in a commercial wide bore MRI system, making it perfect for large abdominal overview, spine imaging, and 2-station body.
  • Ingenia Ambition 1.5T X - The Ingenia Ambition 1.5T X boasts some of the most innovative features you'll find anywhere in an MRI system. It's most impressive feature is no doubt the BlueSeal magnet, which uses new micro-cooling technology that requires a minimal amount of liquid helium for cooling. This negligible amount is sealed into the magnet during manufacturing, which means no helium will escape. This also means no vent pipe is needed, thereby reducing construction costs and allowing the system to be much lighter than its predecessor. The use of compressed SENSE allows the MRI to accelerates its 2D and 3D scans by upwards of 50 percent without sacrificing image quality. In fact, a whole-body MRI scan can be completed in just 30 minutes due to the use of not just the compressed SENSE feature, but also the mDIXON XD and DWIBS whole-body diffusion techniques.

Ingenia 3.0T

Philips produces several 3T MRI systems as well, including the following models:

  • Ingenia 3.0T - Philips' standard wide bore Ingenia 3.0T MRI system is anything but standard. The use of dStream allows for top-notch image quality, digital clarity, and speed, while the iPatient feature provides greater control over personalized, patient-centric imaging that will help improve consistency and efficiency. The use of MultiTransmit 4D improves the image uniformity, consistency, speed, and contrast for spine, breast, and cardiac exams. The system also uses the Xtend magnet system and is built using the IntelliSpace Portal, which allows you to streamline your daily routine with user-friendly clinical workflow and collaboration tools. The Ingenia 3.0T also uses zero boil-off technology.
  • Ingenia  3.0T CX - The Ingenia 3.0T CX is similar to the Ingenia 3.0T. It is built using many of the same features and offers the same applications, making it an excellent MRI system for meeting your neurology, oncology, and cardiology imaging needs. The main difference is that it has a smaller 60cm bore (considered standard within the industry), which makes it more affordable, takes up less space, and is lighter overall. It also uses lightweight dStream coils that make patient setup easy and comfortable. Additionally, the system boasts excellent Quasar Dual gradient performance.
  • Ingenia Elition 3.0T X - Although the other 3T models offered by Philips are certainly designed to provide enhanced patient comfort, the Ingenia Elition 3.0T X takes things further with its VitalEye feature, which allows the operator to monitor a continuous patient respiratory signal without interaction. The VitalScreen touchscreen also makes the system easy to operate due to the guidance and insights it provides in real time concerning patient positioning, what coils to use, contrast usage, breathe hold guidance, and more. The system also boasts several innovative imaging features, including 3D APT, which is a contrast-free brain MRI imaging method, and the Ingenia Elition Vega HP gradients, which improve the temporal resolution of fMRI studies by as much as 23 percent.

Siemens Magnetom 1.5T, 3.0T

Like GE, Siemens has a large line of MRI systems to choose from. In addition to their 1.5T and 3T MRI systems, they also offer an 0.35T MRI as well as a 7T MRI. However, the following is a breakdown of their 1.5T and 3T models.

Magnetom 1.5T

Siemens’ line of Magnetom MRI systems includes the following models:

  • Magnetom Sola - The wide bore Magnetom Sola is the first MRI system to make use of BioMatrix technology, allowing the machine to adjust to patient bio-variability automatically. This, in turn, helps avoid unwarranted variations in your examinations, requiring fewer rescans, and offering more predictable scheduling, higher consistency, and increased productivity. The use of Simultaneous Multi-Slice TSE can reduce your scan times by as much as 46 percent. Additionally, the use of Inline Compressed Sensing applications ensures a better patient experience. The Sola also comes in a cardiovascular edition.
  • Magnetom Aera - The wide bore Magnetom Aera focuses on the ability to meet high patient demand without sacrificing quality. The use of the GOBrain feature along with the system's Tim 4G ultra-high coil element density improves efficiency significantly by allowing push-button brain exams to be performed within six minutes. The CAIPIRINHA feature also contributes to the reduction of rescans through shorter breath hold times. Additionally, the DotGO platform provides exceptional protocol management, smart automation techniques, and user guidance within one user-interface to help improve workflows as well as image quality.
  • Magnetom Amira - The Magnetom Amira is one of the most patient-friendly MRI systems available. Patient comfort is addressed in a number of ways, from reducing sound pressure by 97 percent to controlling illumination and airflow via the system's Life Design feature. The Amira also includes a new Body 13 surface coil that allows operators to perform prostate exams. The system will help streamline operations by enabling 10-minute exams for 75 percent of body region exams. The Amira is also one of the more energy-efficient models, saving 30 percent of energy during standby and uses zero helium boil-off technology.
  • Magnetom Sempra - The Magnetom Sempra is well suited for brain, spine, and MSK exams and is consistent in its quality as a result of its three Dot workflow engines. Protocols are easy to manage with the Dot Cockpit application, while 10-minute exam protocols help to increase efficiency. Some of the applications used in the Sempra include Advanced Warp, Quiet Suite, and Tim 4G coils.
  • Magnetom Avanto - The technology used in the Magnetom Avanto ensures high image quality, short scan times, and ease-of-use for operators. Patient-comfort features include reduced sound irritation, no-table movement restrictions for patients weighing upwards of 250kg, feet-first exams that benefit claustrophobic patients, and a low-to-the-floor position that makes the system accessible to a wider range of patients.
  • Magnetom Essenza - The Magnetom Essenza is an excellent all-around system that can help expand your clinical scope due to its many standard and advanced applications. Its use of the Dot platform makes it easy to manage complex exam routines, use pre-defined exam strategies, and receive step-by-step exam guidance. Your operators will be able to complete scans with almost no manual adjustments, thereby making it easy to setup exams and to improve your workflow. The use of iPAT allows for high acquisition speed and resolution, while the integrated coil technology Tim allows for local and total head-to-toe imaging without sacrificing a high SNR.

Magnetom 3.0T

If you're looking into 3T MRI systems, then you'll find that Siemens offers a number of different models as part of their Magnetom line as well, including the following:

  • Magnetom Vida - The Magnetom Vida is the first 3T MRI system to make use of BioMatrix Technology. Its 3T magnet provides exceptional homogeneity and a large Field-of-View that result in quick examinations as well as reliable fat saturation throughout the imaging volume. The gradient strength of the Vida allows for upwards of 25 percent higher NR in diffusion-weighted imaging. The Vida's Select&GO feature makes it easy to position patients properly and quickly, while many steps in the workflow can be automated so that the exam doesn't have to be manually planned. The Vida also has energy-efficient features, such as EcoPower, which shuts the cold head off in standby, helping to reduce energy usage by 30 percent.
  • Magnetom Skyra - The Magnetom Skyra is a wide bore MRI that uses both GOBrain and Tim 4G's high coil element density to provide fast, high-resolution image capturing. The Skyra is particularly effective when imaging the head, neck, and spine due to its ultra-high-density Head/Neck 64 feature. Additionally, its DotGO protocol allows for an efficient workflow. Other features include Quiet Suite, FREEZEit, and Simultaneous Multi-Slice BOLD and DTI features, which allow advanced neurological procedures.
  • Magnetom Prisma - The Magnetom Prisma is a powerful MRI system useful for not just diagnostic imaging, but also for research purposes. Some of the Prisma's unique features include the XR 80/200 gradient coil and the parallel transmit architecture TimTX TrueShape. In addition to higher resolution images, fewer artifacts, and reduced scan times, the Prisma is also capable of zoomed imaging using syngo ZOOMit. You can put to use your own research applications using the Prisma or implement advanced applications, including everything from resting-state fMRI to dynamic angiography and Diffusion Spectrum Imaging.
  • Magnetom Spectra - The Magnetom Spectra offers incredibly accurate and high-resolution images with special features including ultra-lightweight coils, Tim 4G, SlideConnect, DirectConnect, Dot, and more. The MRI system also boasts best-in-class 3T image homogeneity and a huge range of clinical applications. The patient setup is also easy for operators due to the 24-element spine coil.

3rd Party Providers

These MRIs are not the only systems available on the market.however, these are the only MRIs available directly from the manufacturer. There are older models available that are still of high quality but that are no longer being manufactured. You can purchase these models through a third party vendor. Just remember to do your research--make your purchase from a third party that is reputable.

The models provided by third parties should be refurbished in accordance with ISO-13485 certified quality processes, which means that although they should be in tip-top shape, they were previously used. While this may be a drawback to some, it also means that they are more affordable. This could be a good option for healthcare providers on tighter budgets. The following are a few examples of GE models that are considered excellent quality but that are no longer in production and would be purchased through a third party.

  • LX - The GE 1.5T LX uses somewhat dated 9x software as well as an older Octane computer system; however, it's still a very capable MRI machine. One thing to keep in mind is that it only supports upwards of four channels. However, both SGD and ACGD--a newer version--gradient cabinets can be installed, and the system can also be equipped with HiSpeed or Echospeed gradients.
  • Excite II - The GE 1.5T Excite II is a slight step up from the LX in that it uses the same magnet and ACGD gradient cabinets. However, it does have a newer Linux-based OS that supports eight-channel imaging instead of the LX’s four channels.
  • HD - The GE 1.5T HD MRI system was the first of GE's MRIs to implement true HD imaging. One of the benefits of investing in a GE 1.5T HD system is that you can upgrade it to the HDXT or to the 23x Optima edition software and gradients once your budget allows for it (or your imaging needs require it).
  • HDx - The HDx tends to come outfitted with 14x software; however, this model came out a year before the HDxt. The only real differences between the two is the electronic  and software upgrades that occurred within that time span, which means that the HDx can easily be upgraded to an HDxt if your imaging needs expand.
  • HDxt - The GE 1.5T HDxt is a high-field MRI that uses the CXK4 magnet along with either 15x or 16x software. It tends to be one of the more common GE 1.5T MRIs on the market. It's a great option because it's still a higher-end MRI system even if slightly outdated by newer models, but it can be had at a relatively affordable price. However, one thing to watch out for is that some of the refurbished HDxt's are actually upgraded HD MRI systems, which means that their magnets could be even older.

The Right Choice For your Hospital

There are many different MRI manufacturers, but these are some of the top brands in the MRI business worth looking into. When considering the purchase of an MRI system, weigh the features of the different models from each manufacturer. Every model focuses on different needs, with a different emphasis on image quality, user-friendliness, patient comfort, and energy efficiency. Some models may focus more on one area, while others may be well balanced. Consider what your hospital's needs are and consider all the features these models offer to determine what model MRI best suits your needs.