For people who have had a traditional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test, the new machine being installed at the Tahoe Fracture and Orthopedic clinic at Carson City’s southern border will be a welcome improvement.
According to Tahoe Fracture Administrator Chris Greenman, it’s what’s called an “open MRI” machine.
What that means is, instead of lying inside a narrow steel tunnel for upward of 45 minutes listening to the machine make clicking and other disturbing noises, the patient lies on a bed, in the open, with the machine’s large magnetic head floating just above the body part being scanned.
Greenman said particularly for claustrophobic patients, the traditional machines “could be tough” to endure.
He said the machine being installed by Esaote, one of the world’s largest MRI manufacturers, isn’t right for every type of scan but is “perfect for orthopedic work.”
And, therefore, perfect for Tahoe Fracture: “Providing all the orthopedic options — that’s what we do.”
That includes all types of bone, muscle and joint injury, spinal problems and even joint replacement.
He said it also requires less maintenance than traditional machines and uses a lower powered field to generate images. And all MRI machines have gotten faster over the years. Scans that at one time could take well over an hour are now done in half that time.
Technicians spent the weekend installing the 16,000-pound, half-million dollar machine and its computer system in a room built just for it on the ground floor of the clinic on Mica Drive. It will take a full week for field Service Engineer Robert Teel and his crew to calibrate the machine.
Then, according to Greenman, it will take up to three months to get the machine accredited to become Medicare qualified. He said they will probably be able to take cash patients by January.
“We won’t be doing insurance patients prior to that,” Greenman said.
Unlike X-ray machines, people don’t need to be shielded from the MRI. Instead, the MRI needs to be shielded form outside radio frequency interference.
And unlike X-ray machines, an MRI can see “soft tissues.” That means ligaments, tendons, cartilage and muscles are also visible in the scans, not just bones.
The MRI machine makes those images slice by microscopic slice, compiling them into an image that can be seen on a computer monitor as a 3-D look at the body part being scanned.
To a trained technician or doctor, those images can detail medical problems impossible to see with an X-ray.