New MRI at St. Alexius

Doctors use magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI exams to help diagnose and treat certain medical conditions. The machine uses a powerful magnet, radio waves and a computer to capture images of a patient's head, spine or other body part. The pictures help doctors learn more about tumors, bleeding or an injury. St. Alexius recently began using a new MRI machine. It's making the experience more comfortable for patients and easier for technicians to operate.

Anyone who's ever had an MRI exam knows it's not the roomiest experience. Patients usually spend around 15 to 20 minutes in the machine's tube-like bore. But depending on the exam, it could take upwards of 45 minutes or an hour. The new MRI machine at St. Alexius is making things a little more comfortable for patients.

(Pete Knell, St. Alexius MRI Technologist): "The best part about it is it's 70 centimeters wide, which is a step up from the others, which were 60 centimeters wide. It's also shorter, so that's two of the big plusses. It also has new software that allows us to scan faster and get higher quality pictures."

(Juli McDonald): A majority of the exams can be done feet first in this machine. That means the patient's head can be left out of the bore so they're more calm and less likely to move.

(Pete): "They have to hold still for it. It's like having a shutter camera open. Any little movement will blur the pictures. But this machine does have some motion compensation software on it. Depending on how much they're moving, it will allow us to correct for that."

(Julie McDonald): All types of patients need MRI exams, from young children to the elderly. To make the exam even more relaxing, a simulated sky light is installed overhead, and patients can listen to XM Sirius radio or their own ipod through headphones.

Knell says this new machine is the first of its kind in the region.