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Oaklawn installs quieter, large-chamber MRI system for greater patient comfort 

MARSHALL – More people will be able to get improved medical information from their physicians because of an $1.8 million upgrade in Oaklawn’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment. 

The new SIGNA™ Premier system offers the latest advancements in diagnostic technology, and features a larger chamber for the patient, more detailed and consistent imaging as well as quicker and quieter tests. It went into operation on Sept. 12, 2019.

“Installation of Oaklawn’s new General Electric Healthcare ‘wide bore’ MRI system is a significant step forward in making these tests more comfortable and accessible for many patients,” said Chris Wetzel, Oaklawn’s director of diagnostic services. 

Magnetic resonance imaging uses powerful magnets, radio waves and a computer to make detailed pictures of the interior of the human body. Physicians rely on such tests to make diagnoses of various kinds, such as conditions affecting the breast, brain and other internal organs.

However, some patients find the narrow confines inside a typical MRI system to be claustrophobic and uncomfortable, not to mention the noise that often is produced by the action of the internal workings, Wetzel said.

Oaklawn officials had noted over time that up to five patients per week who could have benefited from MRI testing were unable or reluctant to use the former system, she said.

“We’ve been working for the past two years to accommodate the needs of these patients by increasing the size of the inner chamber from a 60-centimeter radius to a 70-centimeter radius,” Wetzel said. “While that doesn’t sound like much of a difference, an increase of 10 centimeters on the outside of a circle actually is a significant amount.”

As a result, some patients who formerly could not fit into the older model now should have no difficulty, she said. Another change patients also are likely to welcome is that the new system – equipped with GE’s SilentScan technology as well as a larger magnet – is significantly quieter, Wetzel said. 

“The main purpose is to make these tests more accessible by helping to reduce patient anxiety about them, and also to improve their satisfaction,” Wetzel said. “At the same time, the new system is more sensitive, which means the images it produces will be of higher quality and show more detail.”

Installation of the new system did not require any major alterations of the MRI test room or the infrastructure at Oaklawn’s main campus at 200 N. Madison St., Wetzel said. A new cooling system that regulates the magnet was installed by crane on the exterior of the building, she added.

“We at Oaklawn set a goal two years ago to make this improvement through a capital purchase, and installation of the new system got under way in June,” she said. “As a result, the equipment that we’ve used for the past nine years has been vastly improved and will be able to serve more people than in the past.”