CINCINNATI—Physicians at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are opening a state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) center that gives virtually any patient—including bulky athletes and the obese—comfortable access to quality body imaging.
Located in the Richard E. Lindner Athletic Center on UC’s West Campus, the 2,110-square-foot Varsity Village Imaging Center will feature the Siemens Espree. This 1.5 tesla (T) high-field-strength MRI machine has a shorter scanning field (about four feet) and a larger opening (two-foot diameter) than other high-field-strength systems.
“We’re able to comfortably accommodate large athletes and obese and claustrophobic patients,” explains Robert Wissman, MD, director of the Varsity Village Imaging Center and UC assistant professor of radiology. “The Espree is a traditional high-field scanner with the comfort of an open system.”
MRI is an imaging procedure that uses a magnetic field and radio-wave energy pulses to create pictures of organs and body structures. The test is used to detect, diagnose and plan treatment for a variety of disorders.
Most traditional high-field MRI scanners have a 350-pound weight limit. Patients who are too heavy or large to fit into a traditional scanner—like football defensive linemen—are often examined on an open MRI system, which is typically lower in field strength. This system can accommodate patients who weigh up to 550 pounds.
In a city where some patients have to wait two weeks for an MRI scan, Dr. Wissman says, the Varsity Village Imaging Center is set up to quickly accommodate walk-in patients, like athletes, who need timely answers about their injuries.
“The Varsity Village Imaging Center is uniquely situated—both in physical location and professional training—to offer top quality musculoskeletal imaging to athletes,” adds Robert Lukin, MD, chair of the department. “Patient care is our No. 1 priority and with this technology we can give nearly all our patients access to high-field imaging care—regardless of size.”
Unlike traditional MRI scanners—which require patients to enter a narrow scanning “tunnel” and to hold their breath—the Espree’s short magnet allows about 60 percent of scans to be done with the patient’s head outside the magnet.
“Many patients experience anxiety in traditional scanners because they feel like they’re nose-to-nose with the magnet,” explains Dr. Lukin. “Although the Espree is a closed system, it feels very open, and most patients have a full foot of headroom.”
The Varsity Village Imaging Center scanner will be the only large-opening high-field MRI system within about an hour’s drive of Cincinnati. Physicians expect to see about 15 patients a day.
A collaborative effort of UC’s pathology, neurology, orthopaedics, radiology and rehabilitation practice groups, the Varsity Village Imaging Center will begin seeing patients on March 23.