MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI machine is used to produce images that show the inside of the body. It is similar to an x-ray, however, MRIs use magnetic waves whereas x-rays use radiation. A CT scan is an x-ray machine that’s hooked up to a computer, so it, too, is similar to an MRI. CT, X-ray, and MRI machines are all imaging equipment used for diagnostic purposes, though which one is used depends on a number of factors.
What are MRIs Used For?
MRI has become the preferred method for diagnosing a large range of potential issues in many different areas of the body. Generally, magnetic resonance imaging creates images that can show differences between healthy and unhealthy tissue. MRI is used to examine the brain, spine, abdomen, breasts, pelvic region, various joints, heart, blood vessels, and more.
MRI scans can be done with or without contrast dye. If ordered with contrast, dye is added with an IV to enhance the resulting images.
MRIs are extremely safe as long as the correct safety precautions are taken. The procedure does not cause pain or any tissue damage. All magnetic objects must be removed before the scan can take place. Patients with metallic implants and materials should let the technologist and radiologist know because they will either take special precautions or cancel the MRI and choose another type of imaging study.
Open MRI vs. Closed
A closed MRI machine features a narrow cylindrical container with a diameter of about 60 cm. Depending on the strength of the magnet used and the area of the body being examined, the procedure can take up to 90 minutes, sometimes longer.
An open MRI is the same kind of machine, but it features a wider opening in the cylindrical container. This alternative was made for patients who suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia because of the closed nature and duration of the study. It is also a better option for larger patients. An open MRI machine does provide patient comfort, but it does not give the same level of detail as a closed MRI machine at this point in time.
Types of MRI Machines
The extremity MRI uses a smaller scanner designed specifically for use with the body’s extremities. This machine eliminates claustrophobia, which some patients will experience when in an enclosed full body machine. While a traditional MRI requires you to lie completely still, extremity MRIs won’t limit body movement as much.
Extremity MRIs are used to diagnose the following conditions in the arms, hands, legs, and feet:
- Nerve related issues
- Stress injuries/ heavy impact injuries/ torsional injuries
- Bone or soft tissue tumors
- Bone infections
As mentioned above, open MRI machines are made with a wider opening to improve patient comfort. Depending on the machine, it may be open on the sides or simply feature wider openings. Regardless, this style still requires the patient to lie on a sliding table. The open nature of the machine reduces the strength of the magnetic field, which affects imaging quality.
An upright MRI scanner is similar to the open system, with the difference being that you are standing rather than lying down for the duration of the scan. With the upright scan, patients are in a weight-bearing position that can provide additional information for diagnostic purposes.
Patients can walk in and be scanned, as the magnets can adjust so that the area of interest is in the center of the magnetic field. It’s also possible to rotate the vertically-oriented patient into a horizontal position, or anywhere in between, so the patient can still be scanned lying down as they would in a conventional MRI.
Since the patient is upright, either standing or sitting in a special chair, they have an unrestricted view in front of them, thereby eliminating problems with claustrophobia.
The Tesla MRI is a type of closed MRI machine that uses magnetic fields with double the strength of a traditional MRI machine, and produces a more detailed image in less time. Because of this, it is commonly used to examine the heart and circulatory system for damage resulting from a heart attack or heart disease. It is also used to find signs of strokes, aneurysms, or tumors in the brain, to look for conditions such as disc disease, bone infections, or arthritis in the bones and joints, and to analyze the state of internal organs such as the uterus, ovaries, prostate, kidneys, or liver.
Average Cost of MRI Machines
An MRI costs patients anywhere from $400 to $3,500 simply because the systems themselves are expensive, as well as costly to install and maintain. Though it is possible to find used MRI systems that cost as little as $150,000, a new MRI system costs around $1.2 million. High end systems can easily cost close to $3 million.
The reason for this is because the systems are expensive to build. They feature several moving parts and have receivers to capture images along with computers to digitize them. However, it’s the magnets that make an MRI system costly to build. These magnets create the magnetic force that allows the images to be created in the first place. The stronger the magnetic field, the higher quality images will be.
Because the MRI systems produce strong magnetic fields, they have to be stored in their own room. It can cost up to $100,000 just to build the room. Without it, there’s a risk of the magnetic field interfering with nearby electronic devices such as pacemakers.
The size and type of your MRI system will influence the maintenance cost. It is necessary to add liquid helium to keep the magnet cool which means replacing the helium whenever levels start to get low. Lower-end MRI systems or extremity MRI systems could cost as little as $2,000 a month to maintain, whereas a high and closed MRI system could cost $10,000+/month to maintain.
Closed systems are more powerful which means you can expect to pay a higher price tag. The larger the unit, the more you’ll pay. Open MRI systems are more affordable because they aren’t as high-powered. Upright systems are large even though they don’t use the strongest magnets available. Though you’ll still end up with high-quality images, it’s the convenience of an upright system that many people opt for.
Leasing vs. Buying A MRI Machine
Depending on the types of studies you’ll be using the MRI machine for, you may not be able to get away with an inexpensive extremity machine. If you’re part of a small research lab or a startup company, chances are you won’t have millions of dollars to spend up front to purchase just one piece of laboratory equipment nor time to deal with annual service contracts.
Leasing lab equipment through Excedr gives you access to quality MRI machines at a fraction of the upfront cost. Plus, you don’t have to worry about dealing with annual service contracts because repairs and maintenance are covered in the lease. Contact us today to learn more.