New 7.5 Ton MRI Machines Installed Through Hole in Side of OHSU Hospital

12/02/02    Portland, Ore.

OHSU Hospital becomes first medical center in the United States to obtain two 3-Tesla MRI machines

OHSU Hospital becomes the first medical center in the United States to obtain two 3-Tesla, full-body magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines for imaging patients. The seven-and-a-half-ton machines will be lifted, then slid into the hospital through a hole in the third floor on Monday, Dec. 2, at noon. The machines should be up and running at the beginning of January following some additional installation work.

The MRI machines will be useful in providing images of tissues throughout the body. However, high-powered MRI is particularly useful when high-detail is needed, such as in the imaging of neurology patients, including those with brain tumors and brain disorders such as epilepsy. High-field MRI will also be beneficial in examining joints such as the knee, ankle and wrist, and organs such as the heart, liver and kidney. In comparison to the two MRI machines currently at OHSU, the new technology is twice as strong allowing for clearer images of disease or injury sites.

"Once online, the two new 3-T MRI machines will be a tremendous help for neurologists and neurosurgeons and other physicians," said Gary M. Nesbit, M.D., chief of neuroradiology and an associate professor of diagnostic and interventional neuroradiology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "For example, using a 1.5-T MRI to image children can be more difficult than adults simply due to the fact that their brains are smaller. These higher resolution 3-T machines will make it easier for physicians to spot disease or trauma in these young patients. Imaging epilepsy patients also provides a unique challenge due to the fact that the lesions causing epilepsy can be quite small. High resolution images will make these lesions that much easier to see."

The higher power MRI technology can also be applied to improve examinations of brain function. Through MR spectroscopy, physicians can look into the chemical compositions of the brain. MR angiography and perfusion MR help visualize blood flow to the brain. In addition, diffusion MRI can look into the functional organization and cellular status of the brain. These new tools are already being applied in clinical examinations in stroke, brain tumors and other diseases in addition to research.

MRI is an imaging system developed to create a 3-D, high-resolution picture of the body. It uses computer-controlled magnets to generate a magnetic field roughly 50,000 times stronger than the earth's magnetic field at the earth's surface. This magnetic field causes water and other molecules in the body to respond. These responses can then be detected and used to create 3-D images. Unlike X-ray imaging or CAT scans, there are no health risks for patients.

Magnets used for MRI are ranked in power measured in Teslas. For instance, a 1.5-T magnet would be larger and more powerful than a 1-T magnet, providing a superior image of the region of the body that's being studied. Currently OHSU has two 1.5-T MRI units. Those two MRI machines will continue to be used. The new 3-T machines will be utilized in cases where greater image resolution is necessary.