Martha’s Vineyard Hospital installs new wide-bore MRI

Randy Curtis of O.B. Hill Trucking and Rigging eases a 13,000 pound magnet into the Martha's Vineyard Hospital radiology department. — Photo by Rachel Vanderhoop

Earlier this month, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital radiology department took delivery of a 13,000-pound magnet, a critical component of a new General Electric Optima wide-bore magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine hospital leaders say will provide expanded diagnostic capabilities, improved patient comfort, and reduced fees.

“Am I excited, that’s an understatement,” Peggy Ekholm, hospital director of diagnostic imaging, said. “I am very excited. I have been waiting and working toward this for a long time.”

Ms. Ekholm said the new unit would allow the hospital to expand its range of diagnostic testing. “We will eventually be adding breast MRI testing, which is something that we do not do currently. And that will help complete the circle for the women’s health care piece,” she said.

The machine will be linked to Massachusetts General Hospital and all scans will be sent to Boston where specialists in the appropriate field read the scans as they now do.

The hospital currently utilizes a leased MRI housed in a trailer parked outside the building and pays a fee per scan.

Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, said the new lease arrangement would cut costs that he expects would allow the hospital to significantly reduce MRI fees.

“It is much more efficient to house it inside the hospital,” Mr. Walsh said. “And it is an example of the continuing evolution of the hospital’s digital link to MGH. It is just a beautiful machine.”

An MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of organs, tissues, or blood flow from many different angles inside the body. Depending on the procedure, the patient lies inside a tube within the magnetic field. There is no radiation.

The $1.7 million Optima MR is known as a wide-bore MRI meaning that the opening is considerably larger than many other MRI units, 70 centimeters versus 50 centimeters. This is particularly important for patients uncomfortable with being confined to small spaces or prone to claustrophobia.

Ms. Ekholm said the Optima provides high resolution, and the machine’s wider field of view means fewer images need to be stitched together and better efficiency.

The new hospital radiology department is also a factor. “The environment that the unit is in is really nice. I think the patients will feel much more comfortable,” she said.

The new hospital radiology department was constructed with a breakaway outside wall. On Thursday, construction workers removed the wall and installed the magnet.

Ms. Ekholm expects the Optima MR to be in operation about the end of May. The actual date of service is contingent upon Massachusetts Department of Public Health approval.