Magnetic resonance imaging rightly holds its place near the top of the medical imaging modality value chain. It offers exceptional quality in terms of resolution, particularly in brain imaging, and its use of a strong magnetic field, as opposed to ionising radiation, eliminates a major safety concern for patients. Such imaging advantages come at a cost, however. The modality hardware itself for high end equipment comfortably exceeds $ 1 million. With this capital expenditure comes an additional expenditure of energy; the headache of correctly siting a scanner so that the hospital / radiology practice can accommodate the equipment's strong magnetic field. This is proving an extra strain on the hard-stretched budgets of hospitals across Europe, and is a significant barrier to the acquisition of a new MRI unit, or - increasingly so with the advent of 3 Tesla machines - upgrading to a new one. Despite these provisos, the stringent following of siting and safety guidelines can ensure that the maximum potential of an MRI scanner is realised, both in terms of image quality and patient throughput.
Benefits of MRI
Having an MRI system within a practice or university offers four main benefits:
Powerful diagnostic tool
MRI is able to identify positive pathology in the majority of previously undiagnosed lameness cases in the distal limb (85% detection rate Mair et al 2003). It is the modality of choice for soft tissue imaging (eg tendons and ligaments) and provides unrivalled capabilities for detecting bone oedema, sclerosis and hard to detect fractures.
The Hallmarq EQ2 is designed for safe and convenient animal handling. For the standing horse it is quick and simple to use as the patient is standing and sedated. This avoids the mortality risk associated with anaesthesia and is much preferred by clients. When required however the magnet can be rotated, allowing easy access to both fore and hind limbs of horses under general anaesthesia.
The user interface software is based on Microsoft Windows® and easily mastered. Comprehensive training is given both on installation and at regular user meetings. On-line support backed up by a team of dedicated field engineers ensures the system continues to offer optimum image quality. No previous experience in MRI is required to operate the system.
Hallmarq can offer a range of purchase options from one-off capital expenditure to a 'revenue sharing' model that keep the practice's initial investment to a minimum; this makes the system affordable at the outset and will generate income for the practice with realistic caseloads.
Complex imaging equates to complex installation
Siting concerns for MRI contrast sharply with those for CT and X-ray. The latter two modalities have levels of radiation believed to be detrimental after prolonged exposure. As such, sufficient shielding must be in place to ensure that radiation does not reach outside the examination room. Conversely, this concept of protection has a two way dynamic with MRI: Not only must the spread of magnetic field be contained (as will be elaborated upon subsequently), but the MRI unit itself must be shielded form outside ...