State-of-the Art Scans: The New MRI Scanner is Here!

Olympia Orthopaedic Associates provides MRI scans in order to provide accurate diagnoses for a variety of conditions. An MRI is a harmless, non-invasive test that uses a strong magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to produce images of the inside of your body. The scans are very safe, and there is no radiation exposure.

In early 2019, the OOA team evaluated if there was a need for a new MRI scanner. At that point, the clinic already had two full-size MRI scanners and one mini extremity scanner (for use on smaller body parts, such as hands, wrists and elbows). Ultimately, they decided to upgrade because technology has advanced a lot since the oldest scanner was installed.

What makes the new machine better? First, it can accommodate a wider range of patients as there are fewer weight limitations. Previously, patients had to be under a certain height and weight in order to get an MRI scan so some patients would have to be referred out for this necessary type of imaging. Also, the new MRI scanner will facilitate faster exams. For example, a typical lumbar spine scan previously took 20 minutes but the new scanner will cut the test duration down to 12 to 13 minutes.

The new MRI will also offer increased image quality. Karie Ryan, Diagnostic Imaging Supervisor, explains it this way: “If you bought an LCD TV in 2008, the images would be fine but not as amazing as what you could get now with a 4K high definition screen. Upgrading our MRI technology gives us a similar upgrade.”

The new machine will allow OOA to serve the needs of the community more efficiently. According to Ryan, many patients come to OOA with injuries or issues involving soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, muscle, cartilage. “If x-ray hasn’t provided the full story, or if there is a further question, then MRIs can help get an accurate diagnosis. In fact, about 75% of our patients benefit from advanced imaging.”

The OOA team met with different MRI vendors, looked at market research, and then started to officially move forward with the process last summer. First, the old MRI machine had to be pulled out. This required taking down an internal wall and an external wall. In April 2020, with the MRI department already shut down due to COVID-19, a large forklift was brought in to remove the old unit.

“The pandemic certainly made the project more challenging,” says Jessica Forsman, VP of Business Development. The OOA team worked hard to comply with all state regulations and reduce any possible risks. Once it was safe to reopen the MRI department, the MRI team worked extended hours 7 days/week to help ensure access for patients.

The new unit has now been installed and the internal and external walls have been rebuilt. The next step is turning the new scanner into a magnet! During shipping and installation, the magnet cannot be turned on. As the magnet is being turned on (it takes several days), five OOA MRI technicians will be trained by a specialized team that the MRI manufacturer has sent over.

Patients are scheduled to start using the machine on July 6, 2020. After 18 months of planning (and one global pandemic), OOA will start scanning in “high definition.”

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