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A new MRI for people who hate tight spaces

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People who hate getting an MRI might find something to love about a new state-of-the-art device that was lowered with a crane Monday through the roof at Asante Ashland Community Hospital.

“It’s a brand-new technology,” said Robert Hibner, director of ancillary and support services. “It has the ability to scan patients extremely fast.”

One of the scarier parts of getting an MRI is that it can take so long, Hibner said.

That won’t be a problem with the new Magnetom Altea MRI machine, which is only the second in the nation to be installed, Hibner said.

The machine has a 550-pound patient-weight capacity, a wide, open-bore design, and can complete a scan in as little as 10 minutes. Other MRI machines can take 30 minutes to an hour to complete a scan.

The machine will highly improve the experience of patients who suffer from claustrophobia or anxiety and those who can’t lie still for long periods of time, he said.

“Claustrophobia is common with MRI scans,” Hibner said. “It can be really frightening being in a confined space for a long period of time, despite the fact that you’re already sick, so we tried to get a system that’s very large and fast so we minimize that anxiety and discomfort for our patients.”

The technology allows for improved imaging and can automatically correct to meet the unique needs of patients in terms of adapting to anatomical regions of the body.

“It’s called biometrics technology,” he said. “Everyone’s different anatomically, and the system has the ability to automatically change the scanning techniques based on the patient’s size and the way their body is shaped.

“We tried to pick a system that was really focused on patient comfort and abilities to provide our physicians with high-quality and accurate exams.”

MRI technologist Matt Welch said the new machine will improve patient experience. When patients are uncomfortable, frightened and fidgety, that makes the whole process slow down considerably.

“The better experience you can give the patients, in turn that makes our job easier. ... It’s going to be the best in the valley. I’m excited to give patients the best imaging and care.”

Welch said the new machine is also much quieter than the average MRI device.

It should take about a week for everything to get set up and ready to go, he said.

The machine cost more than $1 million, Hibner said. The MRI machine it replaced was installed in 2001 and was at the end of its life cycle.

“Asante really wanted to make sure that we did everything we could to make sure that we got a very cost-effective system that helps us get health care costs as low as we can,” Hibner said.

The machine weighs more than 11,000 pounds and was lowered into the building through a skylight. Because MRI machines generally last about 15 years, the hospital was designed with a skylight that can be removed for replacing heavy-duty equipment, he said.

He said the team of riggers was specially trained for this type of work.

“There’s a very narrow tolerance in the skylight,” Hibner said, adding that there’s not much room for mistakes when lifting a million-dollar piece of equipment.

“We’re really excited that Asante is investing into the city of Ashland to provide state-of-the-art care for our patients,” Hibner said.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

A state-of-the-art MRI is lowered into Asante Ashland Community Hospital on Monday.