How to Evaluate Wide Bore MRI Systems For Your Hospital

Choosing the right MRI system for your hospital is not a decision you should take lightly. Not only do you want to consider the scanning capabilities of the MRI system, but also the comfort of your patients. Although the standard choices include open MRI machines and closed MRI machines, a third option exists: the wide bore MRI machine.

What Is a Wide Bore MRI?

A wide bore MRI system more closely resembles a closed MRI machine than it does an open MRI machine. It’s essentially a tube within a donut-shaped machine in which the patient is inserted on their backs. The patient is surrounded by the machine on all sides. An open MRI is different in that the sides are open.

Open MRI machines are often considered much more comfortable for patients, especially for those who are a bit on the larger side or who suffer from anxiety issues of claustrophobia. However, the magnets of an open MRI machine aren’t nearly as strong, which means the image quality isn’t as good.

A wide bore MRI machine takes into account the potential discomfort a patient may feel while being scanned in a closed MRI machine. Although still closed off, the diameter of the bore is wider. In a standard closed MRI machine, the bore’s diameter is 60cm. In a wide bore MRI machine, the diameter of the bore is extended to 70cm. Although it’s only a 10cm difference, this can have a big impact on the comfort of your patients.

The drawback lies in the image quality of the scans. While the magnetic field produced by the magnets are superior to those of an open MRI system (which can only produce magnetic fields between 0.3T and 0.7T), the image quality of the scans may not quite match that of a closed MRI system with a 60cm bore because the magnets are further away from the patient during the scanning process due to the width of the bore.

Benefits of a Wide Bore MRI

The following are a few of the reasons why you might want to choose a wide bore MRI over a closed MRI with a smaller bore or an open MRI machine:

  • High-quality images – Wide bore MRI machines are built with magnets that can produce magnetic fields of up to 3T versus open bore MRI machines, which typically range between 0.3T and 0.7T (and, in some cases, 1.2T).
  • Faster scanning capabilities – The strength of the magnets means it takes much less time to scan a patient in a wide bore MRI machine than it takes to scan a patient in an open MRI machine. This can have a big effect on the comfort of your patients as well since the longer they have to spend in the machine, the less comfortable they’re likely to become. Additionally, there’s more risk of patient movement with a longer scan time and this will negatively impact image quality.
  • Less discomfort for patients – The wider bore makes the machine less claustrophobic for patients than a standard closed MRI machine does, which makes the entire experience less anxiety-inducing for many.
  • Accommodate larger patients – The wider bore makes it easier for larger patients to use. In fact, most closed MRI machines can only accommodate patients up to 400 pounds, whereas some wide bore MRI machines can accommodate patients weighing up to 500 pounds.

Compare The Strengths of The Magnets

When comparing MRI machines, it’s worth noting that the stronger the magnets are, the higher quality the images will be. This can be very beneficial when it comes to diagnosing certain conditions. For example, stronger magnets scan quicker, which means you’ll get clearer images of the chest and abdomen in a wide bore or closed MRI machine than you would using an open MRI machine, making it easier to diagnose issues with the brain and spinal cord, heart and blood vessels, bone and joints and other internal organs. The needs of your hospital will dictate whether or not you need a higher powered MRI machine.

Magnet Breakdown

The following are some of the standard magnet sizes you’ll find for different types of MRI machines:

  • 0.2T – 0.2T MRI machines are generally extremity MRI machines that are only suitable for scanning hands, feet, arms, and legs. While the magnet power is not nearly as strong as other MRI machines, because the extremity can be placed directly underneath the magnets, the images are still accurate if not quite as high-quality as those produced by higher powered magnets. Such an MRI machine can detect fractures, arthritis, and nerve-related injuries.
  • 0.3T  to 1.2T – MRI machines with this range are usually open MRI machines. They can help identify issues with the extremities as well as the head and torso. This includes infections, fractures, developmental anomalies, herniated discs, spinal cord compression, and more. The problem with the strength of these magnets is that they take longer to scan, which means patients are more likely to move and cause blurriness, resulting in lesser quality images.
  • 1.5T – 1.5T machines that are closed wide bore MRI systems are typically used to diagnose brain aneurysms, stroke, tumors, heart attack, heart disease, blood vessel blockages, bone infections, spinal cord injuries and conditions of the organs.
  • 3.0T – 3.0T machines that are closed wide bore MRI systems provide even more accurate identification of certain conditions, including fibrocartilage lesions, hepatic metastases, and lesions in multiple sclerosis.

Cost Comparison

MRI machines are expensive, beginning with initial costs as well as their maintenance and repair costs. Additional costs include siting and construction costs…which can be significant due to the power, environment and shielding requirements. Your budget is something to keep in mind when making your decision. The following are a few of the factors that will play a part in the cost of your MRI machine:

  • The size – Generally speaking, a closed MRI machine is going to cost less than a wide bore MRI machine simply due to the size. The bigger it is, the more it’s going to cost to install.
  • The coil type – The more channels the coil has, the more it will cost. The coil is basically the transmitter that allows the machine to capture the images of the patient’s body.
  • The magnet type – Permanent magnets cost less to maintain than helium-cooled magnets. MRI machines up to 0.4T use permanent magnets, while those above that range generally use helium-cooled magnets. However, there are newer MRI machines that make use of a new technology that uses larger magnets that aren’t helium-cooled. The initial cost of such MRI machines may be higher, but the long-term maintenance costs will be lower.
  • Refurbished or new – While there are many refurbished closed MRI systems on the market, these are coming from facilities that are replacing their closed MRI machines with wide bore MRI machines. You’re unlikely to find many refurbished wide bore MRIs on the market.

Service and Repairs

Who you purchase your MRI machine from should factor into your decision as well. You’ll want to purchase your system from a reputable company, whether the manufacturer or a 3rd party service organization that offers high quality service when you need it. You should also find out how easy it will be to get parts for the machine you purchase and to have your system serviced.

Balance Quality and Cost

When comparing all of the MRI machines on the market, the wide bore MRI machine is probably the best option for image quality, speed, and patient comfort. However, it may not be the best option based on what your hospital’s specific needs are. Take into account the types of patients you have, the types of conditions you tend to treat, and the budget you have to not only purchase the machine, but also to have it installed and maintained. Above all, make sure you do your research and compare not only the different types of MRI machines available, but the different service organizations available to you as well.