When your doctor tells you they're sending you for an MRI, it can be a bit nerve-racking.
That fear mostly comes from not knowing what to expect. A lot of people don't realize that there is more than one type of MRI machine. The traditional MRI most people know about is a closed unit. Another option is an open MRI unit- which is more patient-friendly. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and it will be up to the patient and doctor to decide, together, what the best option would be.
A closed MRI machine has a tube-like tunnel that the patient enters in order to get the images needed. This is the original shape of the MRI machine. A closed MRI will typically range from a 1.0 tesla to 3.0 tesla. Tesla is the unit of measurement for the strength of the magnetic field of an MRI machine. Most of these closed units have a diameter of 23.5-27.5 inches allowing the patient minimal space. Some people find this doesn't work for them, especially since most MRI scans take about 40-60 minutes per body part. The patients who end up being too claustrophobic do have another choice; an open MRI.
An open MRI machine doesn't have the tube-like tunnel that the closed units have. Instead, it has a top and a bottom and it's open on the sides. It's often described as sliding between two plates. There is a magnet above the patient and below. That is how the images are produced in an open MRI. Most open units are 0.2 or 0.3 tesla. At Vantage, we have a high-field open MRI and 0.7 tesla is our magnet strength. For a patient this means the images that are produced will be of better quality than that of a standard open MRI with a lower tesla strength. Your doctor will appreciate the better quality images and can feel more confident in your diagnosis and/or treatment plan. In an open MRI, like ours in the photo above, a patient is able to see out of the side of the machine which helps combat claustrophobia during a 40-60 minute scan.
Now that you know a little bit more about two of the different types of MRI machines, hopefully you can make a more informed choice should you ever need any imaging. If you have concerns about an MRI never hesitate to talk to your doctor about what's bothering you. Remember, it's your healthcare and you always have a choice.
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