Doctor standing in front of Open MRI machine with patient in background

Open MRI Offers Patients More Options

Open MRI Offers Patients an Important Option in Medical Imaging

As a patient today, you have the advantage of highly-sophisticated medicine and cutting edge technologies. One of the most effective, non-invasive diagnostic tools available to physicians is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Most patients have the option to choose between an Open or traditional MRI. Understanding Open MRI and other MRI types can help you make an informed decision about your medical needs.

This sophisticated equipment is housed by Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg (MIF). Their calming atmosphere provides the perfect environment for patients to complete their scan.  What’s behind the scenes is highly complex equipment and software, operated by specialized technologists trained to capture detailed medical images. In recent years, the Open MRI has offered an important alternative in the use of these machines.

What does an MRI do exactly?

The National Institutes of Health defines the MRI as follows: “MRI is a non-invasive imaging technology that produces three-dimensional detailed anatomical images without the use of radiation. It is often used for disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring.”

In short, an MRI allows a physician to look inside the body without having to create an incision. Today, there are several kinds of configurations and strengths for MRI machines, offering patients and their physician additional options to cater to their unique needs.

How does an MRI work?

MRI machines contain a very large magnet with varying strengths (measured in teslas or T). Those magnetic fields combined with radio waves form detailed images used to identify illnesses. As a diagnostic tool, the MRI is extremely versatile because it can be used to diagnose any number of issues or diseases.

Understanding an Open MRI and a Closed MRI

Closed MRI: The first MRI unit, introduced more than three decades ago, is known as closed or traditional MRI. An extremely effective diagnostic tool, the closed MRI unit poses some issues for a minority of patients. The cylindrical shape of the closed MRI unit requires a patient to lie very still inside a tube that is 24” to 28” across in diameter. Some patients are uncomfortable in this space. For some patients with claustrophobia, a closed MRI unit may require sedation.

Another concern is that some patients of larger physique are unable to be accommodated inside the openings of a traditional MRI unit, making an open MRI unit an important option.

Open MRI: The more recent models of MRI units can be a preferable option for many patients and certain body parts. The open MRI unit is not cylindrical in shape and is open along three to four sides. Claustrophobic or larger patients are more easily and comfortably scanned in an open MRI unit. It can also be a very good option for children, as their parents are often able to remain alongside them during the test. Open MRI units also allow repositioning of the body in order to capture different angles.

True Open MRI at Lee’s Hill: Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg offers both traditional and open MRI units, including a “True Open MRI” at the Lee’s Hill location, which is open on all four sides and the region’s only open MRI unit.  Also available to MIF patients is a traditional and high power 3T MRI unit.

According to the National Institutes of Health [NIH], the earlier versions of the open MRI units offered lower magnetic strength and therefore, lower quality images. In recent years, open MRI units  have been developed with high magnetic fields and vastly improved image quality. The newer images, according to the NIH, are effective in making a diagnosis. For some diagnostic purposes the open MRI unit is not the preferred imaging method, and consultation with your provider is an important part of the imaging process.  RAF radiologists provide expert consultation to clinicians as they make these recommendations.

If you are in need of an MRI, you and your health care provider can discuss the best option. Regardless of the type you select, you can count on a great MRI experience at MIF at the Lee’s Hill, Fredericksburg or Stafford Locations.

Book an appointment here.