By Ronnie Ellis, Regional Support Specialist, Crothall Healthcare Technology Solutions
A lot of people feel some level of trepidation before taking an MRI exam. It can be intimidating for the first-time patient to lie down and be rolled inside the huge piece of equipment, especially if they suffer from claustrophobia.
But as someone that has serviced and repaired MRIs for more than 20 years, I’m here to tell you it’s safe and there is nothing to fear. In my job, I travel across the nation to repair MRIs, even occasionally serving as a “test” patient to make certain our repairs work.
On these occasions, I’ve climbed into the MRI tube and laid flat on my back to ensure it’s working properly. It may sound odd, but it’s one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. MRIs are powered by a magnet that vibrates, and the vibrations are so soothing during the tests that I’ve often fallen asleep during the test.
What Does an MRI Do?
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, a kind of scan that produces detailed pictures of parts of the body, including the brain. The magnetic field is then used to align the atoms in the body, which is the first step in producing an MRI image.
Because MRIs examine fluids and tissue inside the body, it is commonly used to determine if a person has suffered damage to any ligaments or tendons, or if they have injured any muscles. MRIs can also help a radiologist diagnose certain diseases, such as brain tumors or cancer cells. An MRI exam can last between 30 minutes and four hours, depending on the reason for the scan.
Safety of MRI Scans
Unlike an x-ray, an MRI scan does not use radiation to produce images. The equipment is so safe that any patient can bring a friend or relative with them into the examination room since this person will not be exposed to radiation or any harmful materials.
Still, the exam may not be without some discomfort. For instance, the noise created by the equipment’s strong magnetic field can be discomforting. The MRI equipment can produce a loud sound noise that is created by the electronic pulses in the coil.
Each patient is screened before the exam to make certain they don’t have any metal, such as a metal implant, or certain medical condition. Medical personnel involved in preparing someone for an MRI scan are well-trained and understand the patient may be nervous. They ensure each patient is comfortable once they lie down before sliding into the tube. Each patient has a pillow and is given earplugs or headphone with music to protect their hearing during the scan.
How Crothall Maintains MRIs
Crothall’s Healthcare Technology Solutions (HTS) unit provides preventive maintenance and timely repairs to MRIs nationwide.
To ensure each one operates as efficiently as possible, our technicians constantly monitor the status of the magnets. It’s critical to keep the magnet cold so it doesn’t lose liquid helium. When the MRI is working properly, the temperature inside the magnet is unimaginably cold – it is actually minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Liquid helium is expensive, so part of our job is to make certain the temperature doesn’t rise, turning the helium into a gas.
The life span for an MRI is approximately 10-12 years, and if we do our jobs, we can expand the life of each piece of equipment and save money for hospitals. In addition, by providing our clients an option to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repair service we reduce the overall cost to maintain the equipment while maintaining the quality and equipment uptime our clients demand.
For example, there is a component in the MRI called a radiofrequency or RF amplifier that is instrumental in producing an image. A call to the OEM to diagnose and replace this component could cost roughly $80,000. But if Crothall replaces the component, the cost is likely less than half of the OEM’s cost.
Our talented and highly trained MRI technicians have backgrounds in electronics, basic digital imaging knowledge and the safety and theory of MRI physics. In addition, they receive regular training on specific models from each manufacturer.
We work closely with each hospital’s Health Technology Systems (HTS) unit director, the director of Radiology and the MRI Technologists to schedule regular maintenance. We also have strong working relationships with vendors that supply us with high-quality replacement parts. New MRIs are expensive, so the longer we can keep one operating efficiently, the more cost-effective it is for hospitals.
I work on sophisticated medical equipment every day and understand that anyone needing an MRI has plenty on their minds when they come in for an exam. It’s important that every patient knows they are safe around and inside an MRI. If you’re like me, you may even fall asleep during the exam.
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