What type of MRI machine is right for me?
It’s usually your doctor delivering the news: You need an MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging gives doctors a look at what’s going on inside your body and it helps them plan your treatment. Typically your physician will send you for a traditional MRI, but that might not be the best option for you. So how do you know which type of MRI to get?
Ask the Right Questions About Your Exam
Knowing you have a choice will save you time in the long run. Not everyone knows there are MRI options and not everyone needs an alternative. Douglas Boucher’s surgeon sent him for an MRI of a tendon in his right arm. He breezed through his exam. “It was relaxing,” Douglas recalls. “They took me right in. They have a selection of music with headphones. I just fell asleep.”
Not all patients are so relaxed they fall asleep. In fact, some get so anxious, they can’t even get started. If you’re worried about your exam, here are some questions to ask:
- What will my exam be like? Having a clear vision of what the equipment looks like will help you know what to expect.
- How long will it take? One of the most common questions from patients is the length of the exam. The answer could range from 20 minutes to more than an hour.
- Do you offer alternatives? Does the imaging center your doctor recommended offer other choices for exams like the High-field Open MRI, the Open Upright MRI or the High-field Wide-bore MRI?
At Center for Diagnostic Imaging, these questions are answered in your screening phone call and help us determine which location is most convenient for you and which MRI is the best match for your specific needs.
Know Your MRI Options: High-field Open MRI
Stuart George started with a traditional MRI exam, but it didn’t work for him. He’s broad-shouldered and the experience felt too confining. When he searched for an alternative, he found CDI’s High-field Open MRI in Kirkland. “When you walk in, you see it, oh cool. It’s not that big round tunnel.” The shape of the High-field Open is more like a flying saucer or a hamburger bun. The difference is that if you turn your head to either side, you can see the room. There’s more airflow in the High-field Open and, for a patient like Stuart, it was exactly what he needed.
Terry Trescott is a technologist who helps patients through High-field Open MRI exams. This particular open has close to the same tesla (magnetic) strength as a traditional MRI. Terry says she gets very positive feedback from radiologists and doctors about the quality of the High-field Open images.
Know Your MRI Options: Open Upright MRI
After being rear-ended on her commute, Norma Branson Campbell tracked down CDI’s Open Upright MRI in Renton, WA. She knew she couldn’t manage a traditional MRI exam or even a High-field Open. “I’ve tried the Open MRI and I’m very claustrophobic and this one is open so you can sit up, upright and look out forward.” Since CDI has the only Open Upright in the state of Washington, patients travel thousands of miles for the experience.
Technically the Open Upright MRI has the lowest magnet strength of the alternatives, but the image quality is still good enough to help your doctor understand what’s going on inside of you. Technologist Leslie Young operates the Open Upright and says it’s not just the comfort, but the flexibility of the exam that makes it a good choice. “The upright MRI allows us to image the patient in the position in which they’re experiencing pain, whether that be upright, in a seated position or lying on their back.”
Know Your MRI Options: High-field Wide-bore MRI
The speed of the High-field Wide-bore MRI impressed Rodney Dunlap. A CDI patient at the Federal Way center, Rodney said his exams at CDI were faster than he expected. “I took MRIs in hospitals and X-rays and it seems like it’s a longer process to get in and do it unless it’s a real emergency.”
Wendell Anderson works on the High-field Wide-bore MRI and says speed is a common concern. “Many of our patients are a little bit claustrophobic and often they hear stories of being in the scanner for 45 minutes to an hour. This MRI scanner is a high-field strength scanner, so the images are high-quality images, very good resolution but it’s pretty fast as well. Most scans take about 20 to 30 minutes.”
The High-field Wide-bore MRI is considerably wider than a traditional MRI. Imagine the opening to be about the size of a hula hoop. The wider bore makes the exam a good option for claustrophobic, obese or broad-shouldered patients.