No fuss MRI upgrade - little downtime, no delivery

A creative solution to upgrade MRI machines has made continued, world-class care possible at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

It was an uplift without the lift. At a time of extremely high patient volumes and backlogs across the province, St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s) upgraded its two magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units without having to replace the large, powerful machines, saving months of downtime for patients waiting for care.

Unlike any previous MRI upgrade at St. Joseph’s, it was achieved with little fuss and upheaval. Thanks to a creative solution, the core magnet component of the units could remain in place, avoiding the time-consuming, complex process of switching out the machines and months of downtime. The upgrade of one unit was completed in September 2022 and the second in December 2022 to provide St. Joseph’s with the latest and best in MRI technology, and the ability to serve hundreds of additional patients each year.

“At St. Joseph’s Hospital, both MRI machines were aging having been installed 10 years ago,” explains Howard Hansford, Director of Medical Imaging. “A solution was needed to keep technology up to date yet minimized downtime for patients.”

Working collaboratively with Siemens Healthineers, a solution was found. The MAGNETOM Sola Fit from Siemens allowed for a full upgrade of all MRI sub-systems such as computer, radiofrequency coils, the imaging chain and patient table, yet leaves the core magnet in place. This refit was accomplished in about four weeks per machine while a full replacement – which requires a crane lift through the roof on Level 5 of the hospital – would have taken about three months for each machine. Cost is also significantly reduced with the upgrade about 60 per cent of the cost of a new unit.

“Most important, at a time of significant patient backlogs due to the pandemic, downtime was minimized and patients served by St. Joseph’s continued to receive the latest and best in MRI imaging,” says Howard.

Radiologist Dr. Zahra Kassam says imaging quality and diagnostic abilities are significantly enhanced with the upgraded MRIs. As just one example, a new software solution acquired with the upgrade allows radiologists to see and assess liver disease in such detail that the need for a liver biopsy may be avoided.

The upgraded MRI units are also faster, allowing seven per cent more patients to be scanned per year. This means 728 more patients can be served annually – 3,640 additional patients over five years.

The what and why of MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a sophisticated medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to create detailed images of the body’s organs, tissues and skeletal system. It is a non-invasive way to detect tumours, infection, inflammation, internal bleeding, various types of tissue disease or damage, and more. MRI machines can also produce 3D images that can be viewed from different angles.

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