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Published on March 30, 2021

Why you can rest and relax in this new MRI

MRI Installation

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Some patients needing an MRI on Cape Cod will soon be experiencing a new breed of technology. The new GE Healthcare 3 Tesla system MRI will go online this month at the Shields MRI site in West Yarmouth and is the first on Cape Cod and the Islands to use artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence technology greatly improves image quality, according to Dr. Stephen Sweriduk, medical director for Shields Health Care Group.

“The image quality is extremely clear and accurate,” he said. “A 3 tesla is the strongest magnet available today for clinical practice, and we combined it with artificial intelligence so that the images are picking up details we’ve never seen before on MRI scans. Artificial intelligence also allows us to significantly reduce the time patients are in the scanner. Our patients are going to get the best possible diagnosis because technology is providing our doctors with the highest resolution images currently available in medicine.”

The new machine is especially helpful for dense tissue, for the prostate and for small bones such as fingers. The new machine also reduces the time it takes to scan a knee or lumbar spine by about 30 percent. In some instances, scans that previously lasted 20 minutes now take only 12 minutes, and the image results are extremely detailed.

The quicker scan times and large bore improve accuracy and make the experience more comfortable for patients.

The reduced scan time is what will be most important for some patients, such as those suffering from severe back and neck pain, said Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital Neurosurgeon Paul Houle, MD.

“Let’s say you’re a patient who has horrible back pain and you can’t lie down. Well, it’s a tremendous benefit to have a scan that lasts 12 minutes as opposed to one that lasts 35 minutes,” he said. These patients in the past often found it impossible to stay comfortable long enough to complete the scan and had to come back again later, he said.

The decreased study time offered by the new MRI’s artificial intelligence software will also allow clinicians to compare scans done at different times for the same patient much more rapidly, Dr. Houle said. For instance, tumor scans can be superimposed over each other to show whether the tumor has grown or shrunk. The results are available in seconds as opposed to hours, in some cases, he said. “With AI, the computer is doing something that a person used to do, but doing it faster,” he said.

The new 3-tesla MRI at Shields is the second 3-tesla machine on Cape Cod, joining the 3-tesla machine installed at Wilken’s Outpatient Medical Complex in Hyannis a few years ago. The new Shields MRI in Yarmouth has a 70-centimeter open bore, which is the largest MRI opening available. Open-bore machines are also offered at Wilkens, Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital.

“Not only is the gantry, or the MRI opening, the largest that’s available for a 3 Tesla MRI unit, but this unit also offers a short bore length. The bore is the length of the opening of the magnet from front to back. For patients, that means your head and much of your body are outside the machine for many scan types. Even if you’re having a brain or head-and-neck scan, you have plenty of room inside the magnet” said Dr. Sweriduk.

Eighty percent of all traditional orthopedic scans can be done with the patient’s head out of the machine. Patients’ head and/or feet will also be outside the MRI machine for other scans such as a typical abdominal scan.