Blessing Hospital's new extremity MRI technology means greater patient comfort

Jill Redd, left, lead MRI technologist for Blessing Hospital, stands next to ultrasound technologist Mindy Ammer, who demonstrates the body position for patients in the hospitalís new MRI extremity machine at the Blessing Health Center. (H-W Photo/Phil Ca
Posted: Jan. 18, 2013 9:39 am Updated: Feb. 8, 2013 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Blessing Hospital has a new viewing tool in its radiology department.

A new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine allows X-ray technicians to scan arms, legs, hands and feet for obstructions in ligaments, tendons and muscles without the patient being forced into uncomfortable body positions.

In fact, patients can sit in a recliner-like chair and watch their favorite movie while the procedure is taking place.

"Who would have ever thought you could have an MRI done and watch a movie at the same time," said Candy Tretter, director of radiology service.

The doughnut-shaped MRI machine -- an Optima MR430s Blessing bought from GE Healthcare for $550,000 -- provides images comparable to a full-body scan, but eliminates the awkward and often uncomfortable body positions often needed with traditional MRI technology.

With an increase patient comfort comes the potential for a boost in image quality. Emphasizing patient comfort increases the accuracy of the images, Tretter said, because minimal movement when a patient is more relaxed leads to clearer and more consistent images.

Technicians are able to scan extremities without placing the entire body under the magnet. The inner tube-looking scanner sits near a reclining medical chair that provides more comfort to patients.

Tretter said before Blessing bought the new machine and put it online in November, an MRI of a wrist required a patient to lay in a swimmer's position while the scan was being done.

"It's difficult for a patient to lie on their stomach with an arm over their head for 35-45 minutes," Tretter said.

While technicians still recommend that patients wear earplugs, the thundering noise often associated with a standard MRI scan is diminished with the new technology.

The shape of the machine also eliminates the seclusion, which allows a parent to maintain contact with a child being scanned. Jill Redd, lead MRI technologist, said having a parent in the room often eases the nerves of a child who is being tested.

Tretter said MRI extremity technology is more common on the East Coast. She said Blessing brought in technicians from Pennsylvania to train the hospital staff before putting the technology into use.