When patients think of MRI, they often think of a “coffin” or a long “tunnel.” For the majority of time that MRI has existed, they weren’t that far off! Traditional closed MRI units have long bores (tubes) and take an extended time to complete an exam.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for people who are claustrophobic. We often see patients who have put off their MRI study because they have a fear of closed spaces. Who can blame them? Closed spaces, combined with loud noises and long exam times, can make anyone timid of having an MRI study.
These days, patients have a choice in the type of MRI unit used in their exam. While there are many variations, the primary two types of MRI units are closed MRI and open MRI.
Traditional closed MRI units have long, cylindrical bores. The center of the body part being imaged has to be at the center of the bore/tube. Due to this requirement, the majority of the patient’s body winds up being inside the bore. The downside is obvious: a small space for a long period of time. With that being said, closed MRI units are capable of producing the highest resolution images. This is extremely important; without quality imaging, the diagnostic capability of the study is limited. Closed MRI units are also roughly 2-3 times the speed of open MRI units. This is a desirable feature for patients who are nervous or have trouble lying down for long periods of time.
Open MRI is a modified type of unit that is typically designed to be completely open, either side to side or front to back. The obvious draw to open MRI is the fact that the open spacing can alleviate stress in a patient with severe claustrophobia. The biggest problem with traditional open MRI units is that once the magnetic field is broken up (from the “open” parts of the machine), the quality of the imaging is compromised. Open MRI units cannot obtain the same levels of signal and resolution that closed MRI units provide. Additionally, open MRI studies take a lot longer to complete. This is once again due to the fact that the magnetic field is disrupted by design, and the machine has to work harder to obtain diagnostic imaging.
If you compare the quality of patients who have had studies performed on closed MRI units, and those same patients who have also had open MRI studies, the difference is very clear. In the example below, the same patient had both an open MRI study and closed MRI study. The image to the left is the open MRI study, and the right is a followup on a closed MRI. You’ll notice that the area of interest is barely noticeable on the open MRI study. On the closed MRI images, it is clear and defined.
It’s important to understand that open MRI units are not all created equal, and not all studies they produce are of poor quality. The areas that open MRI has trouble within particular are body parts that need high resolution to be diagnostic. This includes joints like the knee, wrist, hand, foot, and hips. Others areas of deficiency include nerves in the brain, vascular structures, and evaluation of brain tumors and multiple sclerosis.
Luckily, The Radiology Clinic has invested in technology to alleviate those fears, provide an “Open MRI” experience, and still produce high-resolution imaging! In 2020, The Radiology Clinic added Wide-Open Bore technology to our MRI fleet. Our new machine has an extra-wide opening and ultra-short bore. By definition, the magnet is considered “closed” but due to the extremely large gantry, the industry has termed the unit “wide-open bore” MRI. Because there is so much room, 99% of patients who are claustrophobic are able to tolerate the exam. These patients enjoy the benefits of traditional closed MRI, quality and speed, while also having an experience akin to an open MRI.
Patients can listen to music, relax, and rest assured knowing that they are getting the high-resolution study they need at half of the time of traditional open MRI units. In addition to our technology, all of our radiologists are board-certified and fellowship-trained. This means that your exam will be read by a doctor who has trained, specifically, in the type of exam you are having.
If you would like to schedule a Wide Open Bore MRI at The Radiology Clinic, or if you have questions about the exam, please give us a call at 301-217-0500. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be more than happy to review the process and go over any questions or concerns you may have.